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Off the Shelf in the Spiritual Supermarket

Updated on December 6, 2017
CJStone profile image

CJ Stone is an author, columnist and feature writer. He has written seven books, and columns and articles for many newspapers and magazines.

(The Easy Way to Enlightenment)

Off the shelf enlightenment
Off the shelf enlightenment


I had this dream once. The whole of the human race was marching up the hill towards enlightenment. I was there too, elbow-to-elbow, amid the general throng. There was a sense of elation and bustling expectation.

Then, as we were nearing the top I began to notice all these little scenes.

Two people were sitting in the dust by the path comparing hands and feet.

“Look,” one of them was saying, with child-like wonder, “we have fingers. And toes.”

And they giggled.

There was another couple across the way. She had on a printed, flowery dress and was sat back on her haunches, while he was leaning forward on his knees immersing himself in her eyes.

I had a sudden feeling of revulsion. There was something cloyingly saccharine - not to say, infantile - about the scene.

I looked up, and across the valley, to where I could see another hill. Over there were all these wild anarchists jumping up and down to thunderous music with their fists in the air, whooping with joy. I knew that that was where I wanted to be.

“Fuckin' hell,” I thought, “I’m on the wrong hill!”

Which only goes to show that enlightenment is a matter of taste maybe. One man‘s enlightenment is another man‘s Mills & Boon novel.

The question is: where can you buy your enlightenment these days? Can you get it off-the-shelf in the spiritual market-place, or does it have to be made-to-measure? Is it always one-off and unique, or can it be mass-produced? Can you pick it up along with the soap-powder and cat-food down the supermarket, or do you have to work at it over lifetimes of arduous mental and physical application on the top of a mountain somewhere, while living off a grain of rice a day and bathing in cold water?

Can you do it, like the knitting, while you are watching the telly, or is it more like brain-surgery: something you have to get good at before you practice?

You wouldn’t let just anyone become a brain-surgeon, would you? But almost anyone can become a guru. All you have to do is write a book.

Enlightenment is big business these days. The bookshelves are groaning with self-help manuals on how to activate your auric chakras while bringing up a baby, teaching yourself divination and having ecstatic sex, all at the same time. This is multi-tasking gone exponential, and is surely designed to make us all feel inadequate.

Special offer

Actually I suspect that a lot of these self-help books are more like celebrity slimming videos than true spiritual texts. They represent the author’s idealised view of themselves: how the writer would like to be rather than how they really are.

Why should we expect a fat celebrity to know more about slimming than we do ourselves? Why should we expect someone else’s half-baked platitudes to be any more useful than our own?

Mostly these books are just a good marketing ploy for the multi-nationals, another off-the-shelf commodity item for sale down the spiritual supermarket.

Special offer: two for the price of one. Buy One Get One Free. Collect enough spiritual nectar points and you can win a lifetime trip to paradise!

But then, I’m not really sure that enlightenment has to be worked out over lifetimes either.

Maybe just being born is a start.

I read somewhere that we are not human beings having a spiritual experience, but spiritual beings having a human experience.

It's more about learning than it is about consuming.

Learning how to walk and talk is the first thing. After that, we have to learn to relate. Then we have to learn to work and to play, to read, to write, to enjoy each other’s company, to grow up, to separate ourselves from our parents, to discover the quiet satisfaction that comes with responsibility, to reserve judgement. We have to learn honour and integrity, how to apply ourselves with diligence and care, and how to be humble about the product of our skills. After that we have to learn how to grow old without growing bitter, how not to be scared of our impending end. Finally we have to learn how to surrender our lives to the mystery beyond.

In other words, we only have to learn how to be human.

Isn’t that enough?


© 2010 CJStone


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    • marisuewrites profile image

      marisuewrites 7 years ago from USA

      I'll keep reading; you keep writing. =)

    • CJStone profile image

      CJStone 7 years ago from Whitstable, UK

      Glad you like it Jewels. No that's not just your standpoint on it: that's exactly what I think too. Enlightenment as a commodity. It cheapens it somehow.

      Marisue, I'm writing for a few magazines and am currently writing a book. I'll let you know when it's available.

    • Jewels profile image

      Jewels 7 years ago from Australia

      The spiritual supermarket - how the search for ourselves has led to the materialistic approach when it costs absolutely nothing to sit quietly and go within.

      Great hub CJ, my favorite quote "One man‘s enlightenment is another man‘s Mills & Boon novel." I've heard so many people say the word and have seen so many descriptions for it, that it has become a watered down label for something intended to be sacred. Or perhaps that's just my standpoint of it!

    • marisuewrites profile image

      marisuewrites 7 years ago from USA

      It is, CJ. and I heard that in your message so strongly. I don't know why the tendency to believe we must force our "rightness" (I won't call it "righteousness") on others all in the name of God. To me, that's evil.

      To exist with other groups, it's just "right" to be at peace with the differences. I don't have orange hair, I'm not gay, and I miss a few Sundays going to church. However, I don't think orange hair is bad, that being gay is of the devil, and that going to church every Sunday will save anyone.

      To coin a phrase, "Can't we all just get along?"

      So where are you writing? Can't wait to read it!

    • CJStone profile image

      CJStone 7 years ago from Whitstable, UK

      Hello marisue: I've been popping back here from time to time, and there's been one or two new Hubs, though I don't write anything specifically for HubPages any more. I agree with you that our purpose goes on forever, and the books I mention reflect that. I believe also they reflect the fact that, as you say, there are "common threads among many people and times". It's a pity some humans make the superficial differences in culture the cause for division amongst nations.

    • marisuewrites profile image

      marisuewrites 7 years ago from USA

      "I read somewhere that we are not human beings having a spiritual experience, but spiritual beings having a human experience.

      It's more about learning than it is about consuming."

      I think you have succinctly spoken a simple purpose of human life...I found it enlightening and well stated. We are all on a journey, for sure, and I believe an eternal one with a common destination. Many roads which come together to form one.

      Though I don't know the writings you mentioned, I wonder and imagine that they speak similarly of our purpose and destinations, which I believe go on forever. A question comes to my mind: "If there is Truth, and I believe there is, wouldn't it have common threads among many people and times?"

      That should be uniting, and yet, it seems, it divides us as nations and cultures protest... but I am always cheered by your thought-provoking words, CJ.

      It's good to see you again, after my long absence.

    • CJStone profile image

      CJStone 7 years ago from Whitstable, UK

      Hubcrafter: I think you should write your own hub.

      Why would God only speak to the Jews? This is clearly a mark of Jewish egotism rather than universality to say that God's message had first to come through the Jews before it is broadened to the rest of mankind. In fact God spoke again and again, long before, and many times since, a particular group of people within a particular race wrote some particular words in one (or three) particular languages. I don't believe in Jewish specialness any more than I believe in biblical specialness. It's very particular. Sometimes, indeed, the particular can highlight and point us towards the universal, and for that reason, once again, I would urge you to read the particular words of the Bhagavad Gita too, and of the Tao Te Ching and the Buddhist Sutras, and recognise them as the valid word of God. Because God speaks to us through his prophets and his holy men, and they have appeared to us at all times in history, in all cultures and speaking all languages.....

    • HubCrafter profile image

      HubCrafter 7 years ago from Arizona

      "My question to those who claim that the bible contains the only words of God, is: how come God is so dumb that he can only learn one language, or so prejudiced that he is only willing to address one people?"

      Over the course of some 2,500 years people and languages change. Yet the bible speaks, it records the words God spoke to men who faithfully wrote down the message.

      The bible does not claim to hold the only truth there is..or the only wisdom there is. It's claim is not that men cannot have wisdom..or discover truth. It's claim is to be the fountainhead of wisdom and truth. That it springs from God. God's Word, not mine, says that His "foolishness" is greater than the "wisdom" of men.

      Regarding languages, the bible has been translated into nearly every language and dialect across the globe. His message is not constrained by language.

      Regarding prejudice, He has chosen the smallest group of people, the Jews, and given them extraordinary benefits. Why? Because they were the least of peoples, God chose them as an example to the rest of us. What would any group of men do, if benefitted by God?

      Like all the rest of us..the rebelled, they went back on their promises to Him,they disobeyed Him, they ignored His Laws..and suffered the consequences.

      But they were not forsaken by God. Merely chastised. They were not destroyed or even made to be lost among the many peoples of the earth. They remain today, still, after pogroms, holocaust, wars and their own rebellious ways. They remain..and God remains faithful.

      The bible itself was not written in just one language. The original languages used were three. Hebrew, for the Old Testament; and Aramaic and Greek for the New Testament.

      Regarding God's willingness to address just one people...even a casual reading of the Book of Acts reveals that God's message came through the Jews and with the coming of Jesus Christ that message was broadened outward to include all mankind.

      Regarding my reading're right of course. We should all read as widely as possible. In college I was a double major. Art and English. With a minor in philosophy.

      I enjoy talking with you CJ. You're an educated, passionate man, well-spoken and well-read. God bless.

    • CJStone profile image

      CJStone 7 years ago from Whitstable, UK

      The bible is indeed an interesting book, but it wasn't written by God, but by human beings. It tells us a lot about the life and opinions of the Jewish nation but is no more important IMHO than, say, the Tao Te Ching of Lao Tsu, the Buddhist Sutras or the Bhagavad Bita, all of which are of around the same time period. My question to those who claim that the bible contains the only words of God, is: how come God is so dumb that he can only learn one language, or so prejudiced that he is only willing to address one people? It's not true, of course, and these other books are just as valid, just as wise, just as truthful. You should try widening your reading a little.

    • HubCrafter profile image

      HubCrafter 7 years ago from Arizona

      Hi CJ:

      " do you "know" what God thinks? Or did you just read it in a book somewhere?"

      Lol. Yes, CJ I did read it. Just like I read your comment. Perhaps in the same way that most of us gain information. We read it.

      The bible is a worthwhile read..particularly if we want to listen to what God has to say. The bible is many things. It's not a self-help book or an instant drive-thru window for those seeking immediate gratification.

      As's among the finest that exists or ever has. Even atheists find it's language beautiful and without parallel.

      As's a marvelous story of God's gradual unveiling of His plan...and the wonderful way He leads individuals and whole nations toward His love.

      As reveals our threadbare goodness; Man's faults and weaknesses are made plain..especially in the men and women He calls to serve Him. But He still regards them as family, worthy of aid and forgiveness.

      The bible is full of humor and candor about the human condition. God is attracted to people who are humble. He hates the proud. He is candid about the poor...they will always be with us. But He promises the faithful poor..His presense...and the joy of His favor...peace in whatever circumstance. And that really is the promise to any who are faithful.

      Proverbs teaches the young man or woman how to live with character. When we are old they remind us of the path we've chosen; the good choices and the bad.

      Psalms are the prayers of individuals and the songs of the community for glad or difficult times. They speak to the heart.

      Sorry to be so long.

      Obviously I don't know all of God's thoughts...just the one's that stuck in my heart as I've read and re-enjoyed again the wonderful things He says. I think God is worth listening to. imho.

      Thank you for letting me offer this opinion.

    • KFlippin profile image

      KFlippin 7 years ago from Amazon

      I quite enjoyed this hub, gave me some good food for thought, as well as Melinda's comments here, and I think it's timely given the...conversations and general climate of today....and would say as well that I have never read self-help/spiritual books, just thumbed through them at the book store, or when they're a gift do the same and put them on the shelf, but always wonder how the authors can fill all those pages!

    • CJStone profile image

      CJStone 7 years ago from Whitstable, UK

      Hello Hubcrafter, how do you "know" what God thinks? Or did you just read it in a book somewhere?

    • HubCrafter profile image

      HubCrafter 7 years ago from Arizona

      "..we are...spiritual beings having a human experience".

      To "know" that we are spiritual beings is a "start".

      But to not "know" God means there is no framework, no starting place for that knowledge to find support. Without a foundation, no house can withstand the storms which inevitably come. No knowledge will last which cannot endure the great and piercing trials of life. Apart from God, we struggle in the dark, bumping from knowing to knowing; finding fleeting consolation in the wandering; seeking a map but only finding more and more paths.

      There is a way that seems right. But that way ends in darkness.

      There was One who came to bring light into that darkness.

      Without that Light...we all are left alone in our speculations.

      Without some foundational knowledge of that spiritual mystery you spoke simply remains unknown, a mere source of conversation over coffee.

      Isn't it reasonable that God exists and that He is able to communicate? ..And that He would take the lead in this conversation regarding spiritual things?

      God has spoken to us and to earlier generations of mankind. If we remain lost in our may be that we have chosen not to listen. Or..we might still be unaware, haven't heard His message.

      The message does not begin with us..we are the ones receiving the message. Are we listening?

    • CJStone profile image

      CJStone 7 years ago from Whitstable, UK

      Thanks Nellieanna, very kind of you.

    • Nellieanna profile image

      Nellieanna Hay 7 years ago from TEXAS

      You're good. Here are my favorite lines in your hub:

      "I read somewhere that we are not human beings having a spiritual experience, but spiritual beings having a human experience.

      It's more about learning than it is about consuming."

      What you read "rings true" and so does your response to it. Thanks. I give it a big thumbs up and votes & all that good stuff besides!

    • CJStone profile image

      CJStone 7 years ago from Whitstable, UK

      Hi Paul, glad you liked it!

      Hello Alex, well I put the advert for the Secret there as an illustration of what I mean.

    • profile image

      Alex Caldon 7 years ago

      to get enlightened follow the truth, that is as objectively as you can to the observations of the universe. sadly there is a mammoth amount of crap written and spoken by allegedly wise gurus who are often charlitans profiteering on peoples naivety and fears. shame that this hub has become a position for an advert for the book "the secret" - severe crap which has served to disenlighten millions of people while the authors got rich. and then theres little ol me who DID write a useful book on enlightnement which sold hardly at all. Oh, that reminds me, people don't want to be enlightened. as Nietzsche put it "there are truths in this world which are ugly and humiliating which is why people prefer siets of illusions". for example we dont need to eat meat, its just a selfish action, but very few people want to be elnlightened by accepting that truth and going vegan. enlightenment is realtively easy once you decide to tread the path of truth and purity, but very VERY few people choose to follow that path.

    • profile image

      Oz Tvc 7 years ago

      So true; and so funny ;-)

    • msorensson profile image

      msorensson 7 years ago

      We all have more than one dragon. Some more fierce than others.

      If we cannot tame, we simply acknowledge until the time we are able to command by looking directly in the eyes and saying "Here I am, go ahead blow your fire because guess what, I am untouchable, invulnerable and invincible and you will be wasting your breath of fire"

      I would not try it so soon. :-)

    • CJStone profile image

      CJStone 7 years ago from Whitstable, UK

      Feline: I don't think you know what you've learned till after you've learned it!

      msorensson: I like that. So we have to make friends with the dragon of our neurosis. I think I have more than one dragon though.

    • profile image

      Feline Prophet 7 years ago

      My dilemma has always been this - I know I'm here on this earthly plane to 'learn' something - if only I could figure out what!!

    • msorensson profile image

      msorensson 7 years ago

      I love these sentences "I had a sudden feeling of revulsion. There was something cloyingly saccharine - not to say, infantile - about the scene."

      Ha ha were probably not on the wrong

      Sadly what you wrote is true..setting all the funnies aside. The book "The Secret" was a great success in marketing..but it promises a castle, fame and fortune with a thought. I think it is cruel to have people believe that..Not that it is impossible, just not the way they described it in the book.

      Yes it is a billion dollar industry in fact, the spiritual business.

      According to Chogyam Trungpa "There is probably no such thing as enlightenment other than being able to step out of our neurotic minds"..but you see the neurosis will always be there, ready to spring like a sleeping dragon. You simply have to befriend the dragon so that it will be like the dragon in "Dragonheart" the Disney film. I did not see it, but I loved the commercials especially when the dragon says "I'm staying right here"

      I enjoyed the hub.

    • CJStone profile image

      CJStone 7 years ago from Whitstable, UK

      Thanks for that. I've put the link into the story.

    • profile image

      wally mushroom 7 years ago

      Good points well made. I recommend this website in particular you can download an amazing article called "cutting through spiritual narcissism"