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A Freudian Interpretation Of Enlightenment

Aug 17, 2007
Sigmund Freud believed that human beings were motivated by two inner drives: eros and thanatos.

Eros was the drive for life, for more of it, for the abundance and fullness of it.

Thanatos was its opposite, the urge to overcome the disappointments of life by craving forgetfulness and, ultimately, oblivion through death.

While most of Freudianism has been debunked because his ideas, although exciting to the imagination, lack self-consistency, observed verification, and close correlation with reality, his ideas on life and death appear to have an axiomatic quality to them. This could be because these ideas have such a primal quality. It is difficult to deny they exist because a casual observation of any human life shows these two forces at work.

In fact, it may not be unreasonable to ask that since death is inevitable, we should not rush to it prematurely, by trying to arrest the quickening of our desires. Thanatos will have its day soon enough. Wisdom, perhaps, consists of simply embracing eros while it is still available to us.

When for a moment you stop thinking about all the things in your life that are not working very well and instead focus on the sensation of livingness, what you experience is joy. This joy is a powerful vibration. It stimulates more of itself and rises, if you let it, to the point of ecstasy, a place where you are standing outside yourself in exhuberant wonder at the miracle of it all.

Another interesting thing happens when you allow eros to have a say in your mien and predispositions. You experience a sense of communion and sympathy with other sentient beings. A corresponding reaction then manifests within them and they start to view you as a friend, as one who is aligned with their own urge for well-being.

This attitude, if allowed to continue, expands even more profoundly. From directing it to specific points of light, other places where sentience is vibrant, it moves to an all-encompassing, all-embracing perspective, where all things, living or non-living, close or far, familiar or unfamiliar start to correlate with your affection. You see not your own life or that of other beings, but a galaxy of Life. You experience not only your own awareness but that of all intelligence everywhere.

If pushed still further, you will fall into a mystical experience, where who you are is everyone, and in this oceanic consciousness of unification, life itself is seen as an infinitude and your view of thantos fades into viewing it as an illusion.

This idea is not a beautiful fiction. Examples of people who have reached this state, people like the later Lester Levinson or contemporary teachers like Echart Tolle, can be found.

The principle of eros then is one of circulation. It expands and explores, it connects with all, and it is in sympathetic vibration with all.

From this perspective, you find no opposite, no direct contradiction to eros. You step out of the realm of dualistic thinking. You enter the here and now and lose all interest in the then and there. Thanatos is exposed as an imposter. Instead, you appreciate that while forms come and go and entropy does appear to be a universal constant, consciousness itself never fades or dies but only transmutes itself into ever-widening arcs of comprehension of itself.

Yet the uplifting power of eros is rarely fully liberated in most human lives. People generally do not think of enlightenment as a possible future. If they do think about it, it is regarded as an anomaly best avoided. Their imagination is not inflamed by such visions.

The culprit for this narrow perspective is thanatos. It puts a lid on everything. You dare not hope too much, you dare not try too much, and you dare not say, feel, or think too much because of thanatos. Inherent in the cultural codes of most societies, encrusted in its mythos and logos, it has taken on a consensus reality.

Another way of looking at eros is love. Another way of looking at thanatos is fear. Love pushed to an extreme is liberation, but fear is what restrains love from full expression. The pursuit of enlightenment is the pursuit of pure being; it is a movement toward maximal allowing; it is a declaration of liberation. People who pursue it are those who desire to fully experience themselves, pushing their individuality until it expands into a universality. Most religions aim at fostering obedience, not release into true self-emancipation. They are corralled by a thanatos so subtle it is only discerned by the most acute, who upon suddenly discovering it may just as quickly repress it.

Eros is held in check by thanatos. When a person can get free of this bond, then life in its fullness is experienced and is embraced as an eternal factor. It is a rare and special experience; so rare and so special, in fact, that it is seldom even articulated. Thanatos has a way of squelching the idea of being more than human, of being more fully alive.
About the Author
Saleem Rana would love to share his inspiring ideas. His book Never Ever Give Up tells you how. It is offered at no cost as a way to help YOU succeed. http://www.theempoweredsoul.com
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