The Age of Enlightenment

“When we meditate twice every day, we are making ourselves part of the smooth transition from an age of ignorance into an Age of Enlightenment, as we grow in our own consciousness, as we grow in our own understanding, as growth becomes the pivotal definition of what we are, who we are.”

Thom Knoles

Maharishi Mahesh Yogi was ahead of his time in 1975, when he predicted an end to The Cold War and the fall of the Berlin Wall, among many other changes that he foresaw as arising from the dawning of the ‘Age of Enlightenment.’

With The Cold War showing no signs of thawing at the time, most people saw it as a fanciful notion at best. Yet Maharishi, the great seer, saw it as an inevitable outcome of the shift in consciousness that was growing in pace at the time.

Following on from our recent episode, The Yugas and the Importance of Understanding Them Correctly, in this episode Thom discusses Kali Yuga, the age of ignorance, in more detail.

He explains the role of consciousness and how enlightenment and ignorance can coexist, just as the moon can bring light to the night. Most importantly, he explains that the age of ignorance doesn’t place limits on our experience, individually or collectively.

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Episode Highlights


Kali Yuga—The Age of Ignorance



The Dawning of the Age of Enlightenment



Seven Days of Silence



The Cold War at its Peak



The Mutually-Assured Destruction Philosophy



Things Will Get Better



Enjoying the Good News



Incremental Improvements



Dawning Cannot But Happen in Darkness



Part of the Solution



The Meditator’s Advantage



There is a Lot of Work to be Done



Underutilized Potential



Impatient Behavior



Demands Become Pivot Points



Liberating Our Full Potential



Resisting the Progress



I Am Also the Big Self



We Become Lighthouses



This is What Light Does



Who Knew?



Become Masters of the Transcendental Smile



We Feel Very Secure


Jai Guru Deva


Jai Guru Deva. Welcome to my podcast, The Vedic Worldview. I’m Thom Knoles.

[00:55] Kali Yuga—The Age of Ignorance

People have come to me and said, “Thom, in my yoga class, I learned that we are in Kali Yuga. An age of ignorance, the kind of iron age of base mentality. An age in which no consciousness-expanding phenomenon can have any impact because of the dullness of ignorance.

“We live in an age of, and we’re born into, an age of the weaponizing of misinformation of the polarization, one side against another side, and never the twain shall meet. An age of question marks about, who am I, what am I, what could I be, and what does it all mean anyway? An age of high suicide rates, an age of war, an age of ignorance.

“And since it appears, from what I learned in the yoga class, that I’m in an age of ignorance, then what does it matter whether I radiate life or don’t radiate life, whether I bring about change or not?”

From the Vedic perspective, the Kali Yuga, the age of ignorance, supposedly began some 5,000 years ago and has many thousands of years left of the age of ignorance. But, I’m very happy to tell you that something happened in January of 1975.

[02:48] The Dawning of the Age of Enlightenment

My master Maharishi Mahesh Yogi announced that, from his perspective, from his enlightened perspective, an Age of Enlightenment had dawned in the midst of the age of ignorance. And the way that we describe it is something akin to how on a dark night, a full moon can arise on the horizon, and the full moon can be so bright, shining so brightly that you could even read a book by it.

And that the contrast between the light shed by the full moon in an area of darkness gives that full moon night something that one looks forward to and treasures as a memory.

He said that the Age of Enlightenment was a period of time that would last around 10,000 years, but could even go longer that it was not contingent upon a thing happening, as in, if we taught enough people to meditate, then it would come, but that, in fact, by January of 1975, it had already dawned. And that the dawning of it was only ever going to become more and more evident with the passage of time.

He talked about how the practice of meditation as he taught it, which we call Vedic Meditation, was a way of making the transition into the Age of Enlightenment smoother, both for individuals and for collectives, families, cities of people, collective consciousness of nations and so on.

[04:44] Seven Days of Silence

That the Age of Enlightenment was inexorable, meaning uncompromising, that nothing could stop it. But that the movement from the habits of ignorance to the habits of greater enlightenment would create some difficulty for those who didn’t know how to let go of old habits, but would be easy for those who are ready to embrace the new habits of a life based on the assumptions of ever-increasing consciousness, ever-increasing capability, ever-increasing communality.

And so, as astonished as we were, I remember saying after Maharishi announced this, and he announced it after his traditional annual seven days of silence.

Every year he would go into silence at midnight on the 31st of December, and where everyone else was clinking glasses and letting off fireworks and making a lot of noise about seeing in the New Year, his method of seeing in the New Year was to retire to his room, close the door, and not come out for seven days.

Usually, he fasted and only had water, although nobody really knew what he did in there because nobody else was allowed in that room, and sitting in the silence for seven days, at the end of the seven days of silence on the morning of the 8th of January, traditionally, he would come out speaking in a very, very soft, muted voice. But would quietly announce what he had foreseen during his silence as the theme of the expansion of consciousness for the year.

[06:44] The Cold War at its Peak

And it was on the 8th of January 1975 that Maharishi announced that he saw the dawning of an Age of Enlightenment, the full moon on the dark night, the otherwise dark night, that this was an opportunity for people to really lean into all of those expectations and make them accurate about better times coming.

Now I want to paint a picture of 1975 for those of you whose parents hadn’t even met by that time. A picture of 1975, the Cold War was at its peak. Leonid Brezhnev was the head of state of The Soviet Union.

And The United States was not in great shape. Recession, inflation, crime rates, and murder rates were at an all-time high.

 In Europe, in Germany, there were two Germanys, East Germany and West Germany, the east being, dominated by the Soviets, whom we call today the Russians, and with a wall going down the center of Berlin, East Berlin, West Berlin, a giant wall separating them, which had been extant since the 1950s, the world prepared for thermonuclear war at the highest level.

[08:21] The Mutually-Assured Destruction Philosophy

Once in a while today, we might get some whisper of, “What if somebody uses a tactical nuclear weapon?” In those days, it was considered a very high probability that on any given day, there would be a news flash letting you know that there were 30 minutes left before the end of the world, because the mutually-assured-destruction philosophy that was supposed to be the thing that prevented people from pushing the button on the nuclear devices and starting an irrevocable thermal-nuclear war between not just United States and Soviet Union but every nuclear-armed nation on earth participating, with every city targeted.

Multiple times, multiple targets, not just one bomb, multiple thermonuclear bombs landing on every major population center, every library, every research facility, everything that we know that defines our modern civilization gone in 30 minutes.

It was in that kind of environment that this very surprising thing, Maharishi saying, “This is the dawn of the Age of Enlightenment.” Frankly, it was a little hard to believe because it felt like the peak of a thick, dark age of ignorance.

[09:53] Things Will Get Better

And he said, “Just keep your eyes open and watch. Things will get better and better.” He said, “Now I’m going to go on a world tour,” and I got to go with him. That was fun, where he announced and celebrated the dawn of the Age of Enlightenment on five or six continents. And went to each one of these places and inaugurated the dawn of the Age of Enlightenment, to the astonishment of many.

And the press and the journalists all arrived with their challenges, “How can you possibly say this is the dawn of an Age of Enlightenment with the world in the condition it’s in right now?”

They said, “What about, Germany?”

He said, “That East/West Germany thing that’ll be over within just a few years.” And everyone laughed out loud. There was raucous out-loud laughter, ridiculing the idea. And he would laugh along with them, laughing, laughing, laughing.

[10:51] Enjoying the Good News

He looked over at me once and said, “They’re really enjoying the good news that I’m giving them.” I didn’t have the heart to tell him that they were laughing at him, and he said, “And that wall in Berlin, it’ll be torn down by the people in just a few years.”

More laughter, raucous laughter. “1975 Berlin Wall. The people are going to come out and tear it down. They’ll all be machine gunned. There’s no way anything like that’s going to happen.”

And he said, “The fall of the Soviet Empire is just a few years away now.” Everyone laughed. More laughed, more.

He kept looking at me and saying, “They’re really enjoying the good news. This is such good news, and they can’t stop themselves from laughing.”

And it was so fascinating to me that he went on record in 1975 making all those predictions about what would happen. And that’s, in fact, exactly what happened is now we all know.

[12:00] Incremental Improvements

So the way in which an Age of Enlightenment occurs is it occurs incrementally. It is not unlike the way if ever you have sat waiting for the dawn to come, waiting for the sunrise.

Maybe you went camping or went outside and just watched and waited from the pitch dark night to see the night sky turning to slight gray, to seeing the gray graduate to a little bit of a rosy hue, to seeing the rosy hue graduate to a particular point on the horizon where a certain amount of light came.

Perhaps a cloud came in front of it all and darkened it again for a few moments, but even the cloud, on its rims, was illuminated by the growing inevitability of a great event.

And no matter how much you anticipate what could possibly come, no matter how much you think that you remember what a sunrise looks like, at the last moments of darkness, just before the sun hits the horizon rising, you might feel that, “It’s really light now. This is it.”

But when the sun actually breaks the horizon, the dazzling effect of it is stupendous. It’s nothing like the minutes prior to it. Something very, very major occurs.

[13:42] Dawning Cannot But Happen in Darkness

The dawning of an Age of Enlightenment always is a dawning that happens in darkness. Dawning cannot but happen in darkness.

Darkness is the baseline out of which a dawning occurs. Those of us who, have enough years behind us, or those of you who’ve studied history, however bad things may seem to be now compared with how things were in the early 1970s and prior to, the world is, in fact, in much better shape. This is a theme which we can look into in quite some detail and justify. That the world is in fact, in much better shape.

I’ve had people come to me and say, “Racism is at an all-time high.” This is based on a lack of knowledge of history. It’s certainly not at an all-time high compared with, say, 1850, when enslaved people could be seen anywhere in the world and in the United States in particular.

So, though we have a lot of work to do, there has been some progress made, there’s much more progress to be made, there’s no doubt about that, we need to harness, justifiably, the optimism that we have about the collective consciousness of the world being in a better place to what it once was, and we see this progression happening expansively and, my favorite word, inexorably.

It’s unchangeable. It’s not able to be stopped. It’s uncompromising.

Expansion of what? Greater consciousness. And those of us who are in the habit of expecting the worst, I’m sad to say that you’re going to be disappointed, because better times are coming.

[15:55] Part of the Solution

How do we make sure that we are able to enjoy the impact of the inexorable change that’s occurring in the collective consciousness and not be left behind trying to catch up? We have to meditate twice every day.

When we meditate twice every day, we are making ourselves part of the smooth transition from an age of ignorance into an Age of Enlightenment, as we grow in our own consciousness, as we grow in our own understanding, as growth becomes the pivotal definition of what we are, who we are.

Stable people, adaptive people, people who know how to integrate all good things into life and from all disparate sources. People who know how to let go of, purify, those elements from the past that no longer serve us, people who have a willingness to engage in progressive change these are the definitions of a meditator.

And we’re part of the solution of making this transition to a more enlightened society, a smooth transition, a transition that is complete.

[17:31] The Meditator’s Advantage

We also have another advantage. You know how it is if ever you happen to be up early in the morning, maybe you go for a walk, or you’re doing some other kind of exercise, and you happen to be up at the time that the sun breaks over the horizon?

You’ll notice there’s a camaraderie. People will stop in their tracks wherever they might be, look over at the sun rising, and glance over at another human being and want to express the joy of the shared experience. Total strangers watching a dawn happen may look at each other and say, “Amazing, isn’t it?”

And there is embedded in that also a kind of exquisite joy knowing that millions are still in bed, dreaming their dreams, dreaming the long dreams of the night, with all the blinds drawn, shutting out all the light, living inside the encapsulated darkness of their rooms, in their beds.

And there you are with the camaraderie that exists between even total strangers looking at each other and saying, “It’s fantastic.”

This is akin to the joy that we, as meditators, feel as the evidence of the ever-increasing enlightenment in the world grows and grows, and grows and grows.

[19:19] There is a Lot of Work to be Done

As I said, there’s still a lot of work to be done, but now we know what that work is. There is still a lot of work to be done, but now we’ve identified more, more exactly, more precisely with greater and greater intelligence, what it is that the collectives of the world need to address. That we know now, and we may feel a little frustrated that things are happening too slowly, but at least we know what needs to happen.

Fifty years ago, we didn’t even know what needed to happen. People were just living their lives in the business-as-usual mentality while a buildup of great, great need for improving the interface between humanity and the laws of Nature, that great, great deed was growing and growing, but nobody seemed to be able to identify what needed to be done.

Now at least we’re in that position where we can identify what the problems are and go about doing what needs to be done collectively to change it.

[20:30] Underutilized Potential

But for those of us who are ahead of the curve, we know the real thing that needs to be done is the awakening of the active use of a hundred percent of the mental potential of the human condition.

100% of the mental potential of the human condition needs to be awakened. It’s been stated by many Neurophysiologists that, on average, we use only a tiny fractional percentage, some have said as little as 2%, of our brain’s available computing power.

I want to make it clear that that does not mean that we’re using only 2% of the brain. No. The entire brain is being used at all times. But what is it being used for?

Constant repetition of the known. This is what accumulated stress does to us. It causes us to repeat that which we already know, obsessively. We become compulsive about repeating the known.

[21:46] Impatient Behavior

This might be enshrined in certain behaviors like you walk up to the pedestrian crossing, and there’s that button, and you know that if you press it one time, the message has been registered that there’s someone waiting to cross, and the little computer up there is going to, with as great speed as is safe for all of the passing cars, eventually allow you to cross.

But we don’t press it once. We press it twice. Or three times, or just for good luck, four times. Or maybe if we’re in a real hurry and we want to be sure that the computer got the message, press it 14 or 15 times.

Click, click, click, click, click, click. Press, press, press. Click, click, click, click. Press, press, press, press.

And then when it doesn’t change within one second, another 15 presses on the little button. This kind of obsessive-compulsive behavior is the impatient behavior caused by a graded buildup of stress in the physiology.

You go to lock your car, and you press the button, and it goes, click, beep, whatever it does, flash, but then you’re not too sure that that actually happened, so you do it a second time as you’re walking away, and a third time from across the street. Repetition of the known.

These are just little examples of a classic behavior that comes out of our brain being overloaded with the memory of having been stressed in the past. And we accumulate thousands of these little stresses from little overloads that cause us to behave in ways that are redundant.

[23:42] Demands Become Pivot Points

So, redundant brain behavior eats up our brain’s computing potential. Our brain is so busy storing and re-storing stress, old memories from the past that have to do with something that’s not even here anymore, a challenge, a demand, an overload that is not even present anymore. And yet our body is reacting as if it’s still present.

When we practice our Vedic Meditation twice each day, we peel away these layers of redundant, repetitious behavior. These products of the negative memory that we call stress that’s embedded in the cells of the body.

And through the regular twice-daily removal of stress, as we remove stress more and more, we liberate the brain’s potential for creativity, for inventiveness, for improvisation, for innovation.

We awaken the creation-operator function of our brain, and our brain’s capacity to look at the demands of the world, not as obstacles to what I want to do, not as “have to,” the demands of the world as being I have to, but the demands of the world as being opportunities for creative expression.

Opportunities to stimulate my creativity, my inventiveness, my improvisational capacity, my inbuilt desire to innovate. Demands no longer are obstacles in life. Demands now are the pivot points around which inventiveness is going to occur.

[25:38] Liberating Our Full Potential

As we continue meditating twice each day, we start to notice that habituation to outmoded behaviors begins easily to drop away. As we continue meditating twice each day, going to that inner source of pure creativity, intelligence, and the deep restfulness of that, our body begins to behave with relevance.

Stress reactivity and all the behaviors that come out of it, that come from a stressed body, can be said to produce one style of behavior that is odious. Irrelevance, irrelevant behaviors.

So obsessive-compulsive behaviors are all irrelevant behaviors, but they eat up some of the computing power of the brain. In fact, the majority of the computing power of the brain.

So what we are liberating, as we liberate stresses from the body, we’re also liberating for use, our full potential.

And as such, we begin to find that not only our own experiences are made free, we are unshackling, unleashing our capability, but we’re also becoming more and more knowledgeable, particularly when we take the trouble and the time to listen to all of this knowledge that comes with our tradition.

[27:11] Resisting the Progress

Knowledge is not just direct experience, although it’s based in that. Knowledge has another component, and that is good, solid intellectual understanding. Optimized intellectual understanding so that you have an understanding of why certain experiences become more prevalent as a meditator and other kinds of repetitious or irrelevant behaviors drop off.

Having a proper understanding of that allows us not to be an obstacle to the progress. It’s a fact that, as Vedic meditators, it’s possible for us to reap the benefits that come from meditation much more efficiently.

Our meditation on a daily basis is making us more enlightened in our behavior than what we realize. But because we may not understand intellectually the way in which this progress is forging itself, we might, in fact, resist the progress that’s occurring.

We might ourselves, out of intellectual habit, be resisting the best effects of the meditation. Meditation tries to give us a greater capability, and instead of responding to that with ease, we might try to go back to the old way of behaving that had been determined by and had been enforced by accumulated stress.

And so, improved intellectual understanding along with the direct experience that occurs from our daily, twice-daily practice of Meditation is going to maximize Knowledge. Knowledge with a capital K. Knowledge is comprised of direct experience and intellectual understanding of what that direct experience means.

As we become greater, deeper Knowers of reality, we naturally also become exponents of reality. A Knower of reality is someone who has Knowledge from their baseline of what their true identity is.

[29:43] I Am Also the Big Self

Through my regular experience twice daily of going to the least-excited state, I incorporate into my sense of what I am that least-excited state that I experience twice every day.

I am not just the raw facts of my body, where it was born, under what stars it was born. I am not merely the product of where I went to school, what my parents were, what happened at home, what didn’t happen at home, all of those superficial things.

I am also this one thing that I experience regularly twice every day, this vast, silent, unbounded, pure potentiality field. I am, as well as the elements of the small self, the body, I am also the big Self.

And then in grades, as we continue practicing twice daily, it appears as though I am more the big Self than I am merely the small self. And then, as we continue practicing more and more, not only am I more the big Self, I’m actually the big Self using the elements of the small self for my outlet, my productive outlet.

The body, the intellect, the emotions, the history of the individuality is a means through which the big Self operates to bring about more of itself and the awakening of itself and others.

[31:30] We Become Lighthouses

Someone who is an expounder, an exponent, someone who can actually hold forth when worthy inquiry is present, can hold forth on this Knowledge, is an exponent. We become lighthouses, a lighthouse, a beacon.

A beacon, a lighthouse, enjoys one thing more than any other time of day, the darkness of the night. It’s in the darkness of the night that a lighthouse really finds its function.

You see, you light a lighthouse, illuminate the big lamp in it at noon, on a sunny day in the middle of summer and let it shine out into the sea. Nobody sees it. It’s just one more sparkle on an already sparkling day.

But when you have a lighthouse illuminating a dark night, that lighthouse suddenly finds its purpose. For those of us who have the well-deserved, self-created good fortune, we don’t like using the word luck in the Vedic Worldview.

[32:52] This is What Light Does

Luck, randomosity, it is self-created, well-deserved good fortune of having crossed paths with this Knowledge and then having incorporated this Knowledge into our lives, integrated it into our daily routine.

For those of us who have that great good fortune, the fortunate ones, it is our joy to be somewhat ahead of the curve, to be the people who are seeing the dawn, knowing that others are still asleep, encapsulated in their darkness, ignoring the outside world and imagining in their dream state something other to be than what it is that you’re witnessing out in the fresh air of the morning light, dawning.

It is our joy to be the lighthouse in a dark place that can illuminate and shine and bring relevance, to bring connectivity in the darkness. This is what light does.

Light allows the Knower to have a very distinct relationship with the objects in the room. In darkness, the Knower and the Known are disconnected. This is why we stumble over things, bang into things, and can’t find things in darkness.

When we have light, there’s a connection between the Knower and the Known, and that connection allows the Knower to interact in relevant ways with the objects, with the Known. This is why we refer to the pinnacle of the development of human consciousness as “enlightenment.”

We’re borrowing the word light as an analogy from making a connection with the object world.

[34:59] Who Knew?

This is the dawning of an Age of Enlightenment. The dawn of an Age of Enlightenment during long periods of human endeavor must necessarily be a very graded process.

1975 was the very beginnings that only someone who was a great seer, great in Sanskrit: Maha, Seer: Rishi, only a Maha-rishi was able to see.

And yet he laid down his forecast for what was going to be happening in the next few years. And, without exception, everything he predicted as against the entire credibility of humanity at the time happened within just a few short years.

Nobody could have believed it. And interestingly, when it did happen everybody thought that they predicted it.

“Oh, I knew that was going to happen. Berlin wall falling, people tearing it down with pickaxes and the crumble of the Soviet Union and all the different changes that Maharishi predicted in 1975.”

And of course, there were no newspaper announcements that, “Down Went the Berlin Wall – This Was Predicted by Maharishi Mahesh Yogi.” Nobody even thought about that. Everybody thought they predicted it.

Maharishi himself said he expected nothing other than that. He took great joy in everyone taking credit for something that they couldn’t have even believed in 1975.

[36:44] Become Masters of the Transcendental Smile

He used to say, “We have to become masters of the transcendental smile. We have to get out of the habit of wanting to be in the credit roll.”

The credit roll, that’s the thing that happens at the end of the movie. When you see all those names come up on the screen, there’s only one place in the world where anybody stays there for that. That’s Hollywood itself.

If you watch a movie in Los Angeles, you’ll notice that most of the audience stays right through the credit roll because they all wanna see if their name got up there.

It takes about 1500 people to make a movie, and everyone wants to see if their name or their friend’s name came up in the credit roll in Los Angeles, the center of the industry.

Everywhere else in the world, as soon as that credit roll comes up, people walk out. Or if you’re watching the movie at home, that’s when you switch the channel to something else.

Maharishi’s way, teasing way of being aware of this was, “We don’t need to be in the credit roll.”

[37:50] We Feel Very Secure

We feel very secure. We have the transcendental smile. We know who and what said what and made what difference at what time. Let all of those who are credit hungry take credit for everything. We’re happy for it. They can all have credit.

We’re happy to be the harbinger of the dawn of the Age of Enlightenment. Everyone else can take credit for it. Everyone can say it was our political party that did it, or it was our particular religion that did it, or it was our philosophy that did it.

Or it was these professors at a university that did it, or it was that revolution that did it. Or it was this other revolution that did it, or it was Nature that did it.

Nothing did it. This is just a phenomenon that was scheduled in the overall progression of the evolution of the relationship between humanity and the laws of Nature. This is still the dawn of the Age of Enlightenment today.

And it’s an opportunity for those of us who have knowledge to become the lighthouses who enjoy moving around in the darkness. Nothing like the joy of having a beacon and being the beacon when it’s dark outside. It’s a great, great joy.

It’s time for us to take joy in our status and also to radiate life for all others to enjoy, to be a means whereby the Age of Enlightenment more smoothly comes into being.

Jai Guru Deva.

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