What is the difference between ascension, awakening, and enlightenment? There definitely is some squishiness to many concepts in spirituality or new-age philosophy. By their very nature, we are trying to describe the ineffable. But I think appreciating their distinctive characteristics goes a long way in assisting us in knowing what tools, resources, and practices can deepen where we are in our spiritual journey. As with all things that are explored across many disciplines and with different points of origin, interpretations vary. But here is a good guide to understanding these often misused terms.
What is Ascension?
Ascension refers to the process of transcending to a higher level of consciousness or existence. Ascension is both an individual and collective journey towards a higher state of being. And is thought of more as an energetic/spiritual process rather than a physical one. This shift is characterized by moving from a world based on ego identity, separation, and Us vs Them mentality to one of love, unity, and interconnection. From this higher state of being, we have heightened perception and greater intuitive capacities. Gaining access to spiritual gifts that were not previously available due to the density of the 3-D world.
What is Awakening?
Awakening can be thought of as what is happening as we move from the 3-D to 5-D world. If ascension is the larger process, awakening is the unfolding realization and recognition of the nature of reality that happens within that process. Bringing with it profound insights and shifts in perception, leading to increased mindfulness, spiritual growth, and a deeper connection to oneself and the world. These realizations can happen suddenly or over a long period of time with steep stages and plateaus. It can be triggered by unexplainable events, a life transition, or a peak experience, but it starts with a deeper appreciation that we are part of something bigger than just ourselves.
What is Enlightenment?
Enlightenment is often considered the ultimate result of awakening in spiritual traditions. It is an absolute state of being that once you have achieved it, there is no other way of being. The idea of what the ultimate result is can vary from tradition to tradition. For Buddhists and Hindus, it involves liberation from the cycle of rebirth. In Taoism, enlightenment is seen as a return to the inherent harmony of the Tao (the Way), the natural order of the universe. Some others believe that it is simply non-duality. It is safe to say that there have been very few enlightened people in humanity’s history. Because enlightenment transcends the limitations of ego and conditioned patterns of thinking and involves living with the knowing of our oneness (non-duality), it is not easy to achieve.
Practices and Rituals
Because these concepts are interrelated, all of these practices lend themselves to the awakening path.
- Meditation and journeys
- Plant-based medicine
- Honing intuitive skills
- Practicing compassion
- Light body activations/meditations
- Using frameworks/exercises that challenge biases/constructs
- Drumming, shaking, dancing
- Chanting, singing
In conclusion, ascension refers to a process, and awakening are the realizations one has during this process. Enlightenment is the ultimate result or state that can be achieved through this journey. While it is amazing to have personal breakthroughs and ‘AHa’ moments, these are truly important. We must also remember that we are part of something bigger than ourselves. And on some level – WE ARE ONE. Give thanks for all discoveries you have and know that as you awaken so does the cosmos.
Where do you fit in? I’d love to hear your thoughts.