The Enlightenment is a collection of aphorisms written by the author in the course of his own quest for purity and perfection. To understand this work, it is necessary to acknowledge the common cultural context of our modern consciousness. This is aptly expressed by Anelia Jaffé, who in the following quotation is discussing the significance of the work of Carl Gustav Jung: -
Dr. Jung also came to realize that this strange and mysterious phenomenon of the death of God is a psychic fact of our time. In 1937 he wrote: “I know – and here I am expressing what countless other people know – that the present time is the time of God’s disappearance and death.” [Quoted from Amelia Jaffé’s essay Symbolism in the Visual Arts fromMan and his Symbols.]
The death of god, which was famously announced by Friedrick Nietzsche, through his alter-ego Zarathustra, in Thus Spake Zarathustra, encapsulates in a single symbol the psychic background to Nicholas Socrates’s work. This coheres with our common experience of modernity, which is one of spiritual emptiness, neurosis and alienation.
In opposition to this the reader will quickly learn on opening any page of this work that Nicholas Socrates is a firm believer in God: -
Very receptive to meditation and prayer,
Live in the world of thought,
Live in the realm of God. 56. As It Is
In The Enlightenment we experience not one, but two “voices” – and these are both choral. The first voice is that of the questers singing to their own selves on the difficult journey across what T. S. Eliot has called The Waste Land. This is the voice that we hear when we first read this work.
Find your own way through,
Work out your own salvation with diligence. 28. Work Out Your Own Way with Diligence
Here we encounter the choral aspect of this voice; it is an amalgamation of voices derived partially from the spiritual works that the author has drawn upon from, and partly from the author’s receptive interpretation of those readings. The phrase, “work out your own salvation with diligence” is the voice of the Buddha, quoted from the Dharmapada.
The second choral voice is suppressed in this work, and we do not hear it directly – its existence is implied by the first chorus with its repeated calls to faith: -
We have the intellectual capacity, the strength and the stamina to
seek the spiritual path,
And stick with it.
Have faith in the teachings,
Inspiring us to improve without wasting a moment. 63. The Path
The second voice is that of doubt – it comprises the myriad of sceptical and cynical cavillers who criticise the promise of salvation of the first choral voice and who worship their own egos under the pretext of rationality. To understand this work, we must grasp it as a dialogue, and that the implied second voice occupies the dominant position within our modern culture, to which the protest of the first voice is directed.
Over the course of this work, the first voice gains the upper hand – working through its own words of spiritual comfort it nurtures itself through receptivity, exchange and dialogue: -
A journey is unfolding,
Within us. 2. An Enlightened Society
A foundation for spiritual recovery must be laid in earthly rootedness: -
Anchored into the center of the Earth,
Allow your heart to open. 70. Glorious Visions
This refers us to modesty. The call to the work of self-salvation and to purification of spirit is celebrated on every page of this work. For example: -
Contemplate life through the eyes of purity,
Everywhere you look you see beauty. 15. Paradigm Shifting Insights
Success must come gently,
With great effort, no stress, no obsession. 46. Only One Eternal Moment
Progressing through this work we are gradually encouraged to reject the so-called underlying “psychic fact of our time”: -
There are no longer any gods whom we can invoke to help us. The great religions of the world suffer from increasing anaemia, because the helpful numina have fled from the woods, rivers, and mountains, and from animals, and the god-men have disappeared underground into the unconscious. There we fool ourselves that they lead an ignominious existence among the relics of our past. Our present lives are dominated by the goddess Reason, who is our greatest and most tragic illusion. [C. G. Jung in Man and his Symbols.]
Here that goddess Reason is triumphantly overthrown, and the tragic illusion broken, for there is no anaemia here and the helpful numina manifest themselves in words of encouragement. Neitzsche’s words are revealed to be relative, not absolute; and as in every religion and epoch, God renews himself. Reading this work I am encouraged to say, God is not dead, he was merely sleeping. Ours is the age of rebirth.
London, December 2011