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Martin LeFevre: Sunset Illumination

Meditations - From Martin LeFevre in California

Sunset Illumination

Overlooking the hills and fields beyond town, the display of color begins slowly, filling the eastern sky in a muted mauve counter-sunset.

The diffused purplish hue extends and intensifies over the hills and canyon a few miles away. A completely different color grows in the striated clouds to the west, over the point of the sun’s departure on this day.

At first the color is orange tinged with yellow, but then, as the counter-sunset deepens to magenta and quickly fades, the sky to the west is set ablaze. A falcon flies in at right angles and lands high in the branches of the sycamore overhead. Thought is shocked into stillness by the overwhelming beauty of the entire scene.

Even as it seems the color could not grow more intense, the clouds over the unseen sun explode in orange-red, with the most delicate blue between the vibrant bands. The color becomes extremely concentrated, with the radiance of a billion bonfires.

I sit transfixed as the quickening hues fade from above, gathering into a single brilliant band visible through the bare tree line along the horizon, a concentration of creation, life, and death. A single line of lavender remains as I ride the bike back in reverence. A huge flock of Canadian geese fly low overhead, low enough to hear their wings cutting through the air above the sound of their honking.

Einstein discovered, with his famous equation, that matter is actually a dense form of energy, and that matter can be converted into energy—the basis of nuclear fission and fusion. Thought is a dense form of matter, which is perhaps why conditioning, once set, is so hard to dissolve.

When thought is completely quiet in the brain (which includes the emptying of the accretions of emotion), one feels, to some degree, the energy of the universe. There is no duality between matter and energy, and for the illumined person, there may well be no difference at all inwardly. Is illumination when the human brain is completely transparent to the energy of the universe?

In considering the nature of ‘mystical experiences,’ one has to find out whether such events are supernatural, or rationally understandable. Quantum physics provides some clues, but a complete understanding of ‘mystical experience’ must elude us because the very endeavor to explain it runs counter to the essence of the experience.

When the mind and heart are essentially still (the basic characteristic of the meditative state), there is no attempt to explain anything. Conversely, the urge (or need) to explain mystical experience at best points toward it. At worst the explanation is a self-defeating way of trying to capture the phenomenon in thought, or explain it away.

Though the term ‘mystical experience’ is very loaded, it does refer to something that occurs in the minds/brains of many people. If one understands that the explanation is not the meditative state, then the elucidation can complement the experience, and orient oneself and others in the direction of actually experiencing and re-experiencing the phenomenon.

Meditation is like a laser piercing through the accretions and filters built up in memory by conditioning and experience. It follows that illumination is the dissolution of the accretions and filters altogether. Illumination may take thousands of piercings of meditative states, or just one.

When a human being is whole, the holy is present. Illumination is not just right behavior, though certainly with illumination there is right behavior. And it isn’t that illumined people don’t make mistakes, since illumination is not perfection. There is no such thing as perfection.

The meditative state is, to my mind, the basic source of transformation and transmutation. (Transformation being the process and journey of awakening, and transmutation being the breakthrough of illumination in the individual.)

To create a just, sustainable, and harmonious world, human consciousness has to radically change. Consciousness as humankind has known it for tens of thousands of years is coming to a logical, fragmenting end. Another consciousness is possible.


- Martin LeFevre is a contemplative, and non-academic religious and political philosopher. He has been publishing in North America, Latin America, Africa, and Europe (and now New Zealand) for 20 years. Email: The author welcomes comments.

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