The Four Stages on the Path to Enlightenment

[Written in 2004 or 2005.]

As we walk forward on the path toward full enlightenment, different parts of ourselves live at different stages of healing. Some parts can be amazingly healed and insightful, while others can remain buried and out of touch. Our different parts traverse the various stages at their own speeds, seemingly independently – but ultimately connected to our core of perfection by our universal thread of truth.

The most primitive stage on life’s healing journey is the contest. This is the stage of grandiosity, acceptance by the norm, dissociated happiness, and approval by the parents. The parts of us that are winning the contest stop our journey before it has even begun. Here we deny our deepest traumas so intensely that we fool even ourselves into believing they never happened – and that we are already healed. It is for this reason that dissociation mimics enlightenment. Here we idealize the parents, which allows us full unconscious liberty to replicate the worst of our past in our present. Here we do not look beneath our surface, and if fate goes our way, we will never have to. We remain happily distant from the misery lurking in our guts.

Yet where parts of us lose the contest we evolve into the second stage: suffering. This is the stage of depression, failure, misery, and inertia. Here we wallow in seemingly purposeless pain. The silver lining around our cloud of parental idealization has been stripped away, but the cloud remains intact. We still wish to be rescued by our parents and their replicated stand-ins, but we lack the requisite pain tolerance to be able to acknowledge the impossibility of this. Here we live in tortured ambivalence, and we spend out hours and days trying to get others to love us in the way our parents never could. Part of us wishes to devolve back into the seeming pleasure of grandiosity, but the healthier part recalls how cruelly that route already failed us.

Those parts of us with the capacity to face our terrors enter the third stage: grieving. This is the stage of purposeful struggling. Here we unearth the truth of our past, which allows the eruption of the stinking cesspool of our buried traumas. Here we witness the horror lurking behind idealization of the parents and we work to disassemble their lies. Our honest confidence leads us into the face of the hurricane, because our soul and its allies tell us that blue skies lie on the other side. Here we are humble, here we confront the truth of the worst of our parents, either in interaction with them or through whatever means will best help us integrate the truth, and through this our journey rages forward.

With each demon we conquer we take a further step into the fourth stage: enlightenment. This is the stage of emotional integration, psychic balance, and inner peace. Here lie the deepest goals of mankind. All want to know truth, and the enlightened person achieves it – in all parts of himself that arrive in the final stage. Here we grow able to distinguish light from shadow and water from mirage. Here we nurture the evolution of our primitive sides instead of expressing them destructively. Here we devote the best of ourselves to healing. Here we no longer traumatize others in the very patterns in which we were traumatized, but instead replicate the best of ourselves – and generate beauty in the world around us. Here, having healed our wounds, we share freely of our gifts, because now our gifts are accessible.

12 thoughts on “The Four Stages on the Path to Enlightenment

  1. I’m all new to this. I really enjoy the essays and videos. Does everyone have childhood trauma of some sort or other? How do I know if I have trauma?

  2. Stage 4 @ 49 yrs of age!!!!!!!! Long Journey but soooo worth it!! Great post Daniel! It resonates with me and my long unraveling journey! Yahooo!!! Except the rest of the FOO is still in the fog and now look at ME as if I am off my rocker!!!! Haaaahaaaa! Funny but sad.. jacklyn

  3. This resonates strongly with me, and as I read it I feel a tingling sensation in my gut and a chill going down my spine. I am in between stages two and three at the moment and working towards breaking out of the inertia of the past. (and I absolutely agree that there are different parts at different stages, part of me is saying hurry up while another is digesting things carefully before proceeding) I came across you and your website through Stefan Molyneux’s channel and just wanted to thank you for being another consistent voice of truth in a truly medieval world. Your work is inspiring and gives me the energy and desire to pursue a similar path in my own life.

  4. I have read this countless times and had a severe panic when the page URL changed! The reminder of those blue skies that undoubtedly exist, has helped me through many dark nights. Stage 3, a stage I am finally in after two years of existing in Stage 2, I now see (after much investigation into the thoughts of the late David Hawkins), as “letting go”, which is of course what grieving is. I still lapse into fantasies of the return of my parental stand-ins, but happily also now experience some moments of “a peace that passeth all understanding”. Thank you Daniel for this and for your general philosophy on life which I share, and which I have always felt quite lonely for sharing. Best wishes, Sienna

    • cool sienna. and glad you found my new website!!!! it was stressful for me to change the website, but somehow……the time was right. wishing you the best on your journey—————and greetings from australia—–daniel

  5. Insightful. I’m struggling with an immense trauma that does not bear memory. Every step of the way I try to become more aware of it. I feel it sitting in my body every moment of the day. A ball of dead emotion blocking an immense amount of life energy. Causing me a form of chronic fatigue. Lack of passions. Inability to step into my destiny of a life actually lived. It’s like I’m trying to unearth it. Drag it to the surface. Create cracks in the surface. I do not know whether I am in stage 2 or 3. If I’m in stage 3, I’ve been there for a very long time.

    • cool bart. i think different “parts” of my personality or self or whatever i am are in different stages. some part of me are still dissociated, and some parts are “enlightened.” and stuff in the middle too. but i would say the majority of me is in stages 2 and 3…or maybe 3 and 4???
      all the best! daniel

    • That’s exactly my experience too!…. 🙁 sadly… It would be great if you could share Bart where you’re now with tackling this ball that was blocking your life force.

    • Dear Bart Schouten,
      I can relate very much to your statement of ‘trauma sitting deep in your body’.
      I had therapy for 4 years and it did not really help but I found something that helped me to resolve a lot pretty quickly (in one year). Of course there is still a lot to resolve but I am doing so much better than before finding this: Somatic experiencing therapy. It is a body oriented trauma therapy developed by Peter Levine. In the beginning it was mainly used for shock trauma but they are now also using it for childhood trauma and other forms of trauma. I think just understanding the therapy and the science behind that already helps a lot, you can try to apply it on yourself (with help of a trusted person to regulate you, if needed) or maybe you can find a Somatic Experiencing therapist somewhere where you live if you want to do that. (I know your post is like 5 years ago but maybe it will still help you.)
      Best wishes, Raffaela

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