An emphasis on logical reasoning emerged in ‘Western thought’ in the 18th Century –the ‘Age of Reason’. Also heralded as an ‘Age of Enlightenment’, it led to the ‘Age of Science,’with unprecedented technological advances. However, it is perhaps better characterized as an age emphasizing the discriminative intellect. This is of major importance in order to clarify the perspective from ancient ‘Eastern thought’ that the ‘Age of Reason’ would be the continuance of an age of ‘ignorance’. This paper clearly distinguishes ‘ignorance’ from the profoundly different stages of human development that characterize enlightenment in ‘Eastern thought’.
At least since the ‘Age of Reason’ in ‘Western’ thought, there has been a quite superficial view of what enlightenment means.’ This paper briefly summarizes levels of mind and how the level of intellect fits into natural processes of higher human development. ‘Enlightenment’ is not just an intellectual process as implied by how the term ‘Age of Enlightenment’ was used.“Enlightenment’ is based on profound experiences beyond ordinary waking. Extensively described in ancient texts, these natural transformative experiences have been rare in both‘Western’ and ‘Eastern’ traditions.
First, we will briefly consider general meanings of ‘ignorance’ in ancient ‘Eastern thought’. Then, each higher state of consciousness will be described to clarify what is meant by enlightenment. The descriptions detail empirical experiences deeper than intellectual insights or appreciation of the awe-inspiring cosmic expanse in ‘Western’ theories of development and self-actualization. Direct experience of higher, more unified states of consciousness are said to result in permanent development beyond the ‘state of ignorance’. Given the fragmentation and chaos on Earth today, it is imminently needed for the transformation to a healthy, peaceful human civilization.