On Radical Claims of Enlightenment

Or, My Vision of The Walled Garden

P I. On Radical Claims and Their Critics

  1. Throughout our lives, we are liable to stumble upon or be presented with a number of radical claims. Many of these claims promise unrivalled personal transformation, direct and revelatory access to the deepest wisdom of the ages, and ultimately the attainment of enlightenment. 
  2. The prevalence of such claims in practically all global cultures has been something of a stone in my shoe throughout the past few years, for the very existence of these claims must beg the question of all who are awake: “If I’m being offered a path to enlightenment, which, by definition, is the highest of aims, why would I refuse to walk it?” After all, if offered a home, a car, or a holiday, free of charge, the modern man would likely accept such a gift with much enthusiasm, immediately assigning great worth and desirability to the gift on offer, and yet I struggle to believe that he would accept the offer of enlightenment with such enthusiasm. 
  3. The reasons he one might not accept such an offer appear to me to be threefold. 
  4. First, he may have become cynical of such claims in sight of the fact that so many people who have made these claims have in times past been revealed as frauds, tricksters, or fools. 
  5. In such a case, the cynical person must be reassured that their assessment of these preachers of enlightenment is and always has been devastatingly true. 
  6. I myself remember falling into the trap of cynicism as I left the church of my youth. I remember all the people who stood up in church and bore their testimony of Christ (who, in a sense, represents the Christian path to personal enlightenment). I remember citing as a reason for my having left the church the multiple accounts of those same people who bore their testimonies later being revealed as scam artists, child abusers, or worse. 
  7. Nonetheless, sufficient time and better wisdom have taught me that this cynicism with the frailty of human virtue is no reason to leave an otherwise beautiful community, or to stray from the path of enlightenment that has been offered to me by my parents and ancestors. Rather, this excuse for leaving the path seems to be a sign of one’s pride, for it assumes that one has moral superiority over the hypocrites by leaving the path. In fact, to stray from such a path on these grounds only proves that a person has not yet learned how to sift the wheat from the chaff. 
  8. And so I say to those who are cynical with the path of enlightenment, wherever you find it, consider the hypocrites and fools not as hindrances to the way, but as symbols of the difficulty of the path, and thus of the worth of its attainment. 
  9. And consider this too, that the hypocrites and fools need not deter you from contributing to these communities, but rather they should provide you with yet another reason to stay, even that you might revivify the culture, and lead others to accept in their hearts the very goodness that they have in times past rejected through their actions. 
  10. The second reason why a person may reject the path of enlightenment has to do with fear. We fear enlightenment because of who we would have to become, and perhaps more often, because of what we would have to leave behind in order to attain it. 
  11. When Jesus tells the wealthy man that it is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God, this is no critique of money. Rather, this is an invitation to leave behind anything and everything that would keep you away from what is most important, most sacred, most enlightened, or, dare I say, most near to God. 
  12. And so we must say to those who reject the Way because they fear it, that they are right to fear it, because it may very well be the case that they are so bound by their own faults, addictions, and desires, that to become enlightened would mean walking away from almost everything that they believe they love and cherish. Such a view is obviously terrifying, and it is because it is terrifying that one is able to employ the virtue of courage, which is the appropriate virtue to employ against such fears.
  13. And this also we must say to those who fear the Way, that it is unwise to be tormented by what we would have to leave behind when the good that we are called to seek is far greater than anything that could possibly keep one in the darkness. Or, said in another way, we must not be so focused on what we will lose that we become blind to what it is that we stand to gain.
  14. Finally, a person may reject the call of enlightenment because of shame. They may look at their own efforts in life, and they may assess their many faults, concluding—consciously or not—that they are unworthy of enlightenment, and so they will inevitably hide the light that shines from within, and they will not seek the way. 
  15. This is perhaps the most tragic of reasons to not pursue enlightenment, for it is precisely those people who feel shame and guilt who are in dire need of medicine for the soul, which is to be found along the path to enlightenment. 
  16. Thus, we must assure those who hide themselves away that all are welcome on the path of enlightenment, and that there are no prerequisites to taking the first step in the direction of what is good. 
  17. And this, too, we must make clear, that it is good to inquire within, and to nurture what is broken, and to nourish what is growing, and to seek that which shines.
  18. To seek not these things is to reject Wisdom, and it is to allow oneself to move away from what is heavenly, and toward what is hellish, for

    There, evil lures thee.

    There, ye go running.

    There, ye fear God.
    For there, he deals thy reward.

    And all have their reward.

  19. It must also be said that in the very worst case, a person may be guided by all three of these reasons for rejecting the call to enlightenment. In such a case, they will become bitter and angry at the evils they see in the world, they will see that their own sacrifices have not been accepted, they will fear what would be required of them to obtain enlightenment, and they will feel deep shame and guilt for their position on the holy mountain. Such a person will be liable to mimic cain, and will become nihilistic, and bitter, and dangerous to themselves and others. 
  1. To this person we say with hope and compassion that while the world does contain much evil, there is yet a light that shines in this darkness. We say also that while their sacrifice has not been accepted, and while they mourn in shameful, dark corners, it is yet never too late to offer a new sacrifice, and to become renewed. 
  2. And so it is that a person cannot move towards what is best for them when they are trapped in these worlds of pride, fear, and shame. Of course, one need not be completely free of these feelings in order to begin on the path, but one must at least learn how to overcome them in order to seek what is good. 
  3. In order to do this, one must first learn how to actually hear the call of enlightenment, for if one truly hears the call of enlightenment, then one will at the same time feel the gravity of such a calling. 
  4. Take, for example, these words form the poet Heraclitus: 

The oneness of all wisdom

May be found, or not,

Under the name of God.

PII. Learning to Hear and Heed

  1. When reading such a claim, many people are either too cynical of the idea of God to give pause, or else they are so unmindful when they read that it would be a miracle for them to catch anything of worth! 
  2. Therefore, to read such a statement is not enough. Words like these must be pondered. One must sit with these words on high mountaintops, and one must allow the possibilities of such a statement to sink into the deepest and darkest recesses of his soul. 
  3. Is it true that the oneness of all wisdom may be found? And is it true that it may be found through God? May we commune with God? And if so, how? Until we learn to ask these questions honestly, we cannot fully grasp the magnitude of such a claim, and thus it will have no power to transform us. 
  4. I’m reminded of a sacred line that I was taught in my youth, coming from the Mormon holy texts: “If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him. But let him ask in faith, nothing wavering. For he that wavereth is like a wave of the sea driven with the wind and tossed.” 
  5. As for me, I’m not yet convinced that modern man, including myself, has learned how to ask for wisdom with the intensity spoken of in these lines, and thus, I do not believe that the frontiers of wisdom have been explored with sufficient rigor. 
  6. To truly ask a question is not, as Jordan Peterson has explained, to simply mouth the words of the question. To ask a question, one must truly desire a response, for it is only when one has desired a response that one will receive.
  7. If one is lucky enough to have learned how to truly ask, and to truly listen, and to truly desire a response to one’s questions, then one may find that the Way appears. It is then that a man must learn how to heed such a response to his heartfelt yearnings. 
  8. To heed is to take notice, and to sit with a thought, or an answer to one’s heartfelt question.
  9. To heed is to accept the call of deeper wisdom, and to take the first step towards the fulfillment of such wisdom in one’s life, with humility and courage at the ready. 
  10. To heed is to go on a grand adventure in spite of one’s own fear and shame. 
  11. To heed is to have faith in one’s own ability to be transformed, and it is to allow oneself to be guided by the same spirit that has lifted men and women to greater heights since the dawn of time. 
  12. And so we must heed the call to deeper wisdom if we are to walk on the path of enlightenment, for to not heed such a call would be to deny having heard it in the first place, and to become wilfully blind, and to commit a suicide of the soul.  
  13. Finally, to truly walk on the path of enlightenment we must, as Seneca suggested, be satisfied with the goods of our souls as proof of our progress towards this greatest of all destinations. We must not hide behind flimsy moral statements, empty condemnations, or ill-conceived and cynical excuses for our failings. We must rather reflect what is good through the way we live our lives, for the enlightened person may only be discerned by their ability to bring others into their own story by illuminating the world around them with the light of virtue.

In the Garden at night

The fool wanders along dark paths,

While the wise man follows paths lit by the Moon.


The Sage reflects the light of the Moon,

And thus lights all ways. 

PIII. My Contribution

  1. And so you ask me; what is my vision for The Walled Garden? What will I contribute? What will be my offering?
  2. Well, I can say with complete confidence that I have not yet reached the destination that Seneca talked of, though I will admit that I am certainly a patient in his hospital.
  3. My soul has not yet been cured of its many ailments, and in fact, there are days when I feel like I add more troubles than remedies to my old wounds, which is why I have sought a cure in philosophy.
  4. But even though I am just another wayward traveler on a dusty road far from home, perhaps what I can offer to this community is the story of my travels: both where I’ve come from, and where I hope to go.
  5. Perhaps—simply by the way I walk down this road—I can help people to hear something, and to see something, and to feel something, and to know something.
  6. Maybe as I tell tales of the sights I’ve seen, and of the paths I’ve forged, I will bring new life to these radical claims of enlightenment which have been spoken of by so many minds greater than mine.
  7. And finally, as I learn to walk boldly beyond the boundaries of my own thinking, and as I confront with courage and wisdom the frontiers of my mind, perhaps I will find something of great worth—something which once was hidden far beyond the distant hills, and something which I may bring back to my village, that it may be shared.


In times of flood,
the great men of old
sought higher ground.

In more recent times,
they sought gardens of the mind. 

Now, we seek the
Kingdom of Heaven.

It’s the time tested way.

Though, it is as Heraclitus wrote.

The known way

Is an impasse.

PIV. The Snake Oil Salesman

  1. Maybe through my writing, poetry, photography, and music—or, the goods of my soul—I can tell a story of my own wrestling with the experience of enlightenment—bruises and all.
  2. And before you catch me out, yes, I’m a fool, a trickster, a hypocrite, a clown, a deception of Nature, and a snake oil salesman, but at the back of my mind is always one radical claim: that perhaps, just maybe, I could be the fool who—if he purists in his folly—will stumble upon something resembling wisdom, and that maybe, just maybe, in doing so, I could lead many from out of the desert, and into a luscious garden, where good fruits grow, and where sweet water flows.  

1. So let us not be now dismayed

By the foolish games we’ve often played,

But let us seek the brighter way, 

That we may walk by the light of day.


2. And let us humbly hear

The ancient Wisdom of the past,

And let us heed this wisdom,

That the way might not be passed.

3. And let us be a strength to those

Whose souls are now in need,

For the Sages of old have taught us

That all humans can be freed.


4. And in this luscious garden

Let us humbly seek the Way,

That our souls may be Aligned

As we, through these wildflowers, play.

Gardens on High

Gardens on high,
Let me, in thee, reside.
Open thy gates
That I may sooner hide

From the terrible dragons
That gather outside,
And the great pits of fire
Lest I now, to them, slide.

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