What is Enlightenment Like? Anthony De Mello

This is a story from Anthony De Mello’s book “Awareness” I used in my sermon yesterday:

Somebody once asked, “What is enlightenment like? What is awakening like”? It’s like the tramp in London who was settling in for the night. He’d hardly been able to get a crust of bread to eat. Then he reaches this embankment on the river Thames. There was a slight drizzle, so he huddled in his old tattered cloak. He was about to go to sleep when suddenly a chauffeur-driven Rolls-Royce pulls up. Out of the car steps a beautiful young lady who says to him, “My poor man, are you planning on spending the night here on this embankment”?

And the tramp says, “Yes”. She says, “I won’t have it. You’re coming to my house and you’re going to spend a comfortable night and you’re going to get a good dinner”. She insists on his getting into the car. Well, they ride out of London and get to a place where she has a sprawling mansion with large grounds. They are ushered in by the butler, to whom she says, “James, please make sure he’s put in the servants’ quarters and treated well”. Which is what James does. The young lady had undressed and was about to go to bed when she suddenly remembers her guest for the night.

So she slips something on and pads along the corridor to the servants’ quarters. She sees a little chink of light from the room where the tramp was put up. She taps lightly at the door, opens it, and finds the man awake. She says, “What’s the trouble, my good man, didn’t you get a good meal”? He said, “Never had a better meal in my life, lady”. “Are you warm enough”? He says, “Yes, lovely warm bed”. Then she says, “Maybe you need a little company. Why don’t you move over a bit”. And she comes closer to him and he moves over and falls right into the Thames.

Ha! You didn’t expect that one! Enlightenment! Enlightenment! Wake up. When you’re ready to exchange your illusions for reality, when you’re ready to exchange your dreams for facts, that’s the way you find it all. That’s where life finally becomes meaningful. Life becomes beautiful. -Page 32.

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Wess

...is the William R. Roger Director of Friends Center and Quaker Studies at Guilford College in Greensboro, NC., PhD in Intercultural Studies from Fuller Theological Seminary, served as a "released minister" at Camas Friends Church, and father of three. He enjoys sketchnoting, sharing conversation over coffee with a friend, listening to vinyl and writing creative nonfiction.