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 and the source of a tremendous amount of memetic interference provided by spiritual culture in the form of 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.


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

  1. […] fantasy known as “no ego” Referencing the map for a moment, we can see that the entire constellation of ideas I’m calling the folk theory […]

  2. […] to describe it. The higher=better metaphor forms the seed crystal for a significant chunk of the folk theory of enlightenment, and it appears to occlude a recognition of nondual awareness by defining it as something we are […]

  3. Jody,

    Thanks for this post. I think you have encapsulated it beautifully.

    As a former “seeker” under the Nithyananda fraud school of enlightenment, I have come to now realize how much of it is just folksy theory that enables these fraudulent Gurus to hoodwink the masses.

    I have also come to the realization, that I am already happy and that am that awareness but I was like the sailor you talk of, going “around the world” to “seek something higher”.

  4. Hi!

    Thanks for your critique. I appreciate the work you put into it.

    I got a question for you. Would you care to suggest any alternatives to this model please?

    That’d be great.


    • Hi Paul.

      All I can suggest is the idea that any idea about nondual awareness is wrong. Therefore, be mindful of and dismiss these notions when you encounter them in your stream of thought.

  5. Published at :

    by Ramesam Vemuri

    Here comes a guru and there goes another
    In colorful attires and flashy styles
    Speaking of mind or matter, soul or sorrow
    In words that ring bells but never clear.
    Meditate, they say, to drive your worries away;
    Thought, they declare, is the enemy of all.
    “Utter a mantra and nullify thought”.
    A profound advice to deal with all vice.
    But the thought persists as does the breath.
    Till the end of life, come-what-may.
    Me and my problems and the world around
    Never win because it’s all sin.
    But the Guru becomes fatter and richer
    With a new slogan and a bigger retinue.

  6. Very well done. Almost everything written in the area falls in to one of two errors. Either you get this folk theory stuff you talk about, or you get people saying that nonduality doesn’t exist.

    Your perspective is very rare in my experience. In fact, I haven’t seen a single online source of pro nonduality writing that’s 100% free of metaphysics. Well done.

  7. you forget lovely and strange. and also! without attritube without action, in the midst of the fleeting, she the adorable one:

    she abides forever.

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