On Enlightenment

Enlightenment is not about knowing as much as it is about unknowing; it is not so much learning as unlearning. It is about surrendering and letting go rather than achieving and possessing. It’s more about entering the mystery than arriving at a mental certitude.”

— Richard Rohr
On the Threshold of Transformation (p. 38)
Get My New, 3-Part Video Series—FREE! Ready to accomplish more of what matters? 2015 can be your best year ever. In my new video series, I show you exactly how to set goals that work. Click here to get started. It’s free—but only until Monday, December 8th.

Get my FREE video series now!

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are snarky, offensive, or off-topic. If in doubt, read My Comments Policy.

  • http://twitter.com/Catpawn Ralph Stoever

    It’s a matter of taste maybe, my reference for enlightenment is given by Kant in 1784.

    ‘Enlightenment is man’s emergence from his self-imposed immaturity. Immaturity is the inability to use one’s understanding without guidance from another. This immaturity is self-imposed when its cause lies not in lack of understanding, but in lack of resolve and courage to use it without guidance from another. Sapere Aude! [dare to know] “Have courage to use your own understanding!”–that is the motto of enlightenment.’

    But, aren’t the two definitions related in some paradoxical sense?


  • http://www.geekforhim.com Matthew

    Great quote – actually love it!

  • http://fitmindfitlife.com HT

    Thanks for sharing this quote!

  • http://uma-maheswaran.blogspot.com/ Uma Maheswaran S

    True! How many people suffer from the process of unknowing and unlearning !

  • Peter Turner

    In Zen, they call this “The Great Doubt”–which is the threshold to enlightenment (in the Buddhist sense). Great quote.

  • Pingback: Catholic Youth Ministry Blog » Unknowing()

  • http://paulcoughlin.com Paul Coughlin

    Great quote Michael – and the paradox as always.. fascinates me.

    If we ask “what is it to make progress?” we talk about things like increasing ‘knowing’ by doing more learning.  We talk of creating and bringing things into form, and forming emotional attachments to them. We talk of both science and theology – the study of such things, the increasing of our understanding.

    Yet we talk of enlightenment as going seemingly in the opposite direction..

    One cannot exist without the other.

    As a personal perspective, enlightenment is to do both, at the same time. Not one or the other.

    There is something transcendent about integrating and embracing apparent opposites..


    • http://twitter.com/PJC21 Paul Cahill

      I agree with Paul. It is to realize when we must learn and when we must unlearn (and when we unlearn something we replace it with some other learning). 

  • http://www.alident.org/ Ali Dent

    My favorite part is, ” It’s more about entering the mystery than arriving at a mental certitude.”