Enlightenment How?

by thisisntrob1 min read25th Jun 20201 comment


Less-discussed causes

Beware anyone who mentions the E word. Common, and generally solid advice in spiritual circles. I use it here due to a lack of good alternatives, but I might suggest that we come up with some. Apologies if I have already triggered your cringe response.

Two questions I think may be worth considering for EAs:

1 - What if enlightenment is real?

2 - What if there are reliable ways to precipitate it that are yet to be discovered?

1 - What if enlightenment is real?

What is enlightenment? And what do I mean by real?

The thing that I think may be worth looking into for EAs is not supernatural. It is the idea that it is possible to notice something, either continually or on demand, about our interface with the world that can reduce personal suffering and dramatically increase personal wellbeing. These ‘noticings’ have long been in the realm of the spiritual and religious.

By real I mean that the difference between the enlightened and the unenlightened would be starkly noticeable with various methods of wellbeing research.

2 - What if there are reliable ways to precipitate it that are yet to be discovered?

If enlightenment is real, then it is very likely that there are better and worse ways to precipitate it. Which methods have been tried in the past? Which have been the most successful? Why were they more successful? Could new technologies provide better success rates? Can we put it on the blockchain?


  • This would be available to almost anyone
  • It could dramatically increase the wellbeing of those who have the insight
  • Methods to precipitate it may well be cheap or free to distribute once they have been refined
  • There would very likely be positive secondary and tertiary effects to having more 'enlightened' people in the world
  • It may have been neglected due to supernatural associations

I’d love to know any thoughts anyone has one way or the other. I'm particularly keen to know whether this comes across as too unscientific, or maybe too intractable.


1 comments, sorted by Highlighting new comments since Today at 5:44 PM
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I find this idea very interesting! Several random points:

Relevant here are Kaj Sotala's sequence on meditation and an SSC post on enlightenment (which I'd find and link if the blog wasn't deleted). 

It seems that reports on enlightened people don't display much behavioural difference between them and unenlightened people, which points to a possible delusion. However, subjective reports seem quite consistent (if I recall correctly) and it is possible that their subjective experience really is much better (similar to how depressed people can look from the outside like ordinary people). 

I'd be surprised if we won't find neurofeedback techniques that would (subjectively, as measured against some relevant placebo) improve meditative practice aimed at enlightenment, at least for some of the initial steps of the practice. 

It intuitively feels to me that it would take a lot of work to help achieve something like enlightenment (and even that, it's not clear when it is enough). Much more than alleviating other forms of suffering which are likely to be much worse. So that's a good reason to postpone research on enlightenment. ("Enlightenment Later"?)

I also don't think it's neglected. Apart from the traditional approaches, I think that there is scientific research on that direction, but not really sure. I recall that I heard the Dalai Lama saying something about supporting related scientific research.