The Shimmering Dead End
Thoughts on the packaging and sale of nonduality

A quick introduction to the folk theory of enlightenment

The folk theory of enlightenment is very simple to outline. Think of what it would be like to be God, the entire universe, or nothing, and you’ve pretty much got it covered. This system of ideas can be maintained as a feature of spiritual culture entirely by the brain’s automatic imaging capacities, no metaphysical philosophy is necessary outside of the ideas that we are ultimately God, the universe, or nothing.

folk theory of enlightenment map

The whole complex of ideas rests on the notion of “no ego,” but it is the primary metaphors of “empty,” “power,” and “purity” which anchor the folk theory in place, providing the root for three composite metaphors: the non-existent being, the powerful being, and the perfected being. The terms in red are transformations of identity, either of being divine, or of being non-existent. The black text shows some of the conceptualizations and imagery which make up the body of the folk theory. These are the occluding ideas of the folk theory, those notions which may actively prevent the recognition of one’s own nondual awareness.

Over the course of at least the immediate future, I’m going to be unpacking this map, as well as providing examples to show how and where the folk theory is operating in nonduality spirituality. Until then, have a look at the slides I presented along with my talk at the Science and Nonduality Conference.


7 Responses to “A quick introduction to the folk theory of enlightenment”

  1. My PowerPoint can’t view the slides — something about needing a text converter.

    What would be some examples of non-folk theories of enlightenment?


  2. Nice presentation!

    I love the quotes at the end… and the idea of “neurotypical” confusion

  3. […] ideas about what it is to be nothing. Each of these come with a substantial number of entailments, the folk theory of enlightenment, which also happens to provide much of the content of mystical […]

  4. File seems to be missing now—I’d love to see it!

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