Assagioli gives his thoughts on sudden or spontaneous enlightenment in his article: The Superconscious and the Self.
… some people have reported undoubtedly genuine experiences of the Self which occurred more or less unexpectedly, without any conscious effort of the individual. In this case it is the Transpersonal Self that initiates the process. The issue of who initiates and who responds can be misleading. Here I talk from the point of view of experience at the level of the personality, which is necessarily limited and partial. From the view point of the Self – a viewpoint which is not limited by time and space, and is therefore much more true to reality – the reaching of the “I” for the Self, and the attraction of the “I” by the Self, are two aspects of one and the same rhythmic process, and therefore can not be considered separately, rather they can be said to occur simultaneously.
Such true spontaneous experiences of the Self are extremely rare, and by their very nature, quite unpredictable. So the fact that they do occur is of profound psychological interest, but of little practical help for the person who is searching for an approach and a path he can follow for his own development in the transpersonal realm.
Furthermore such spontaneous experiences are usually of short duration, although their effects can be quite dramatic and beneficial. They typically leave the person with a most intense yearning to “go back”, to return to that state of consciousness. One is then likely to begin an active search for the “way back”.
This phase is a crucial – and often a very painful one. It is perhaps during this period that one is most likely to get sidetracked, and to find himself repeatedly at a dead end. Spontaneous experiences are likely to occur with little or no effort, while the person is engaged in totally unrelated activities. But often one will assume unconsciously that it is this unrelated behaviour that caused the experience, and later in the attempt to replicate such experience, one may try to “figure out what he did” that made it happen, and as a result waste much time and go to dangerous .extremes, attempting to reproduce the conditions in which the experience occurred. Or remembering the state of peace, of serenity, of being, which he may have realized at the high point of the experience, he may decide to reduce to a minimum, or suspend, all personality activities, considering them a disturbing element, and antithetical to the state he is trying to reach. Such attempts are increasingly common today, and are the distortion of an attitude which is valid and appropriate at its own level.
This right attitude can perhaps be best illustrated by Wagner’s symbolic epic of the Grail. (10) Titurel, the knight, ascends the mountain, with much labour and courage. Then, after having reached the top, spends the night in prayer, asking for inspiration, and waits in silence. In response to this prayer, a host of angels (symbol of the superconscious) appear, and bring him the Cup (the Grail, symbol of transpersonal Love) and the Sword (symbol of Spiritual Power and Will). We see here first the active phase, and then the receptive phase. This sequence is essential. The knight who leaves the world behind him and ascends the mountain with much labour is the symbol of the “I” as it first disidentifies from all personality functions and aspects, and then, with an act of will, ascends as close as it can toward the Self. At the summit a receptive, contemplative attitude is taken, through the techniques of meditation, contemplation, and silence. (11) And this, if executed correctly, can lead to the inflow of the superconscious (which transmits to the personality the needed transpersonal qualities) (12) and later to contact with the Self. So we must first “reach the top”, then assume the proper inner attitude, becoming silent at all levels of the personality, but from a focussed point of tension oriented upward.
A common error is to try to suspend all activity before having reached the top, or even before having started to climb. This can make us open to undesirable or dangerous influences, and in any case is a state of passivity that leads to stagnation. The opposite error is to keep trying to climb, or to forget to turn the attention upward, after having reached the mountain top. Then the “noise” of our physical, emotional, and mental activity prevents us from hearing, and tuning ourselves to, the more subtle “sounds” of the transpersonal realms.
Again, neither activity nor receptivity is to be rejected. Both are useful, even necessary, provided we understand their function and use each at the appropriate time and place.« Back to Glossary Index