This interview with Craig Pearson, Ph.D., author of The Supreme Awakening: Experiences of Enlightenment Throughout Time—And How You Can Cultivate Them, and Vice President of Academic Affairs at Maharishi University of Management in Fairfield, Iowa, inaugurates our new Enlightenment Series. Along with selections from Dr. Pearson’s profiles of great seers and thinkers and their writings on higher states of consciousness, the series will bring you articles and research on full human development, prepared by scientists. This article originally appeared in Enlightenment magazine, which is now part of the EnjoyTMNews.org library.
Linda Egenes: What is the relationship of enlightenment and human potential?
Dr. Craig Pearson: Enlightenment is a term that has been used for thousands of years, in traditions East and West, to refer to the most fully developed expression of human potential, far beyond the ordinary.
Linda Egenes: How common is it?
Dr. Craig Pearson: Although this extraordinary experience has been described by individuals in different cultures over the millennia and is celebrated in the world’s spiritual traditions, it seems to be exceedingly rare. But obviously it does lie within the realm of human potential.
Linda Egenes: What has Maharishi contributed to the understanding of enlightenment?
Dr. Craig Pearson: Maharishi Mahesh Yogi is often credited with reintroducing the concept of enlightenment in a systematic manner in our modern age. He has put forward a comprehensive understanding of enlightenment that embraces the great traditions and thinkers who have described this experience across time. Maharishi was also the first to promote scientific investigation into enlightenment, bringing the phenomenon of spiritual development into the arena of modern science.
Linda Egenes: How does Maharishi describe enlightenment?
Dr. Craig Pearson: For Maharishi, enlightenment is the ultimate development of one’s inner potential as a human being. It means being established in the highest state of human consciousness.
Enlightenment begins with experiencing the reality of your innermost Self as unbounded and eternal, and being established at that level. This means the consciousness of an enlightened person is no longer subject to the ups and downs of emotions, mind, and body, but is steadfast, anchored in inner silence.
“At the highest stage, enlightenment means experiencing the universe as the expression of your own unbounded Self. It is a state of perpetual freedom and bliss—supreme fulfillment.” —Dr. Craig Pearson
Enlightenment brings the ultimate unfoldment of our creativity and intelligence. It means living in harmony with all the laws of nature and easily fulfilling your desires. It means being of maximum use to yourself and others, and creating a powerfully nourishing effect in your environment.
At the highest stage, enlightenment means experiencing the universe as the expression of your own unbounded Self. It is a state of perpetual freedom and bliss—supreme fulfillment.
Linda Egenes: Can we relate this in any way to our day-to-day experience?
Dr. Craig Pearson: Although this vision of human development may seem idealistic, we have all had experiences in this direction. Some days we just feel happier inside, more appreciative of others—life is easier, fuller, richer, and more rewarding.
We may have moments of enhanced mental clarity or heightened levels of creativity, when we surprise ourselves with how quickly the solution to a problem may come. Athletes sometimes experience the zone—periods of peak performance that feel effortless and euphoric.
At these times we are using a bit more of our potential. But enlightenment is far, far more than this. It goes far beyond just having a good day. People who have had experiences of enlightenment report that words simply cannot capture the sublimity of the experience.
Linda Egenes: You have researched how individuals from different historical epochs and different parts of the world have shared this same experience. Can you talk about that?
Dr. Craig Pearson: In traditions throughout time, we find remarkably similar descriptions of this extraordinary experience of human life lived to its fullest. In the writings of great philosophers, religious figures, artists, scientists, and writers, as well as in the great religious traditions of the world. The language may vary from tradition to tradition and age to age. But when you have the clear and precise description of enlightenment provided by Maharishi, it becomes easy to appreciate what these people are talking about.
Linda Egenes: How does Maharishi talk about this inner field?
Dr. Craig Pearson: Maharishi characterizes it as an unbounded field of pure consciousness [or Transcendental Consciousness]. An all-pervading ocean of creativity, intelligence, and bliss, beyond space and time. Maharishi asserts, moreover, that this field of pure consciousness is identical with the unified field of natural law that modern physics describes mathematically. Thus the inner field that gives rise to all our thoughts and feelings is the same field that gives rise to the entire universe.
Linda Egenes: And we can experience this inner field of pure consciousness?
Dr. Craig Pearson: Every human being has the natural ability to experience this field. It simply requires “diving within,” allowing the mind to settle inward, beyond the thinking process. This is called transcending.
People throughout history have described and celebrated this experience. It is a simple and natural experience, but by most accounts, seems to be rare and fleeting. People have lacked a technique for experiencing it systematically. This is the gift Maharishi has given us—the Transcendental Meditation® (TM) technique—a simple, natural, effortless procedure by which anyone can dive within at will.
Until Maharishi started teaching in the West, the understanding of how to transcend had, for the most part, been lost. The Transcendental Meditation technique, which has its origin in the ancient Vedic tradition, provides direct experience of pure consciousness. It is easy to learn and practice, validated by hundreds of scientific research studies, and practiced by millions of people throughout the world.
“All human beings have the natural ability to transcend, to dive within and experience the infinite sea of pure consciousness deep inside, and from there, to rise to higher states of consciousness, to enlightenment, and realize their full potential.” —Dr. Craig Pearson
Linda Egenes: What role does the experience of transcending play in the growth to enlightenment?
Dr. Craig Pearson: With regular, repeated experience of Transcendental Consciousness, the mind and body become accustomed to this restfully alert style of functioning. One maintains unbounded awareness, the fully expanded state of mind, at all times, along with waking, dreaming, and sleeping. The physiology is now free of stress, and brain functioning remains integrated throughout the day.
This stage of development represents a fifth state of consciousness, which Maharishi calls Cosmic Consciousness. With consciousness now fully expanded and open to the unified field, you live in accord with natural law—your actions are spontaneously life-nourishing, and you fulfill your desires without strain.
But growth of enlightenment does not stop here. Maharishi describes the full range of human development as encompassing seven distinctly different states of consciousness altogether. This model of higher human development—seven states of consciousness—is another of Maharishi’s great contributions.
Linda Egenes: So Maharishi’s vision is that enlightenment doesn’t belong only to the great seers; it can be experienced by every person?
Dr. Craig Pearson: Yes. All human beings have the natural ability to transcend, to dive within and experience the infinite sea of pure consciousness deep inside, and from there, to rise to higher states of consciousness, to enlightenment, and realize their full potential.
This, Maharishi emphasized, is the birthright of every human being, the destiny of everyone. And this is why he brought the Transcendental Meditation technique out of the Himalayas and made it available to everyone on earth.