Robert Fuller: Eureka, Epiphany and Enlightenment

That moments of enlightenment can't be anticipated accounts for part of our fascination with them, but it also makes the experience vulnerable to mystification. History has seen many claimants to the titles of sage, genius, maestro, saint, or enlightened master. Mesmerized by the aura of celebrity and mystery that envelops them, we often fail to notice that, like ourselves, they are human beings. When they're not having an epiphany -- which is most of the time -- they're ordinary in the same way that everyone is. What sets some of them apart is a readier ability to rise above habit and see freshly. And sometimes they can transmit this special skill to their students. Whether using it will result in a student hitting the jackpot, or, for that matter, in the teacher hitting a second jackpot, or either of them ever having another enlightening experience -- of that there are no guarantees.

Students and seekers often collude in their own infantilization by maintaining habits of deference that lull them into believing that an experience of enlightenment is quite beyond them. Such dependent relationships with revered authority figures reflect the escapist desire for a parent whose love is constant, whose wisdom is infallible, and on whom we can always rely. The best teachers, like the best parents, freely transmit their knowledge, skills, and passion for truth-seeking to their mentees, but without leaving them starry-eyed. As with so many of the most precious gifts in life, the best we can do to repay such benefactors is to pass what we've learned from them on to someone else.

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