Translucence is a concept presented by Arjuna Ardagh in his book The Translucent Revolution: How People Just Like You Are Waking Up and Changing the World. The book is the product of more than 170 in-depth interviews, including many New Paradigm/New Age/Global Mindshift/Integral movement "thought leaders" and spiritual teachers (e.g. Andrew Cohen, Jean Houston, Byron Katie, Eckhart Tolle, and Neale Donald Walsch), and a survey of more than 13,000 people.
From the website (via this page):
For more than a decade, author Arjuna Ardagh has studied this worldwide advance in human consciousness marked by what he calls "translucents" - individuals who have undergone a spiritual awakening deeply enough that it has permanently transformed their relationship to themselves and to reality while allowing them to remain involved in ordinary life. According to conservative estimates, millions have shifted in this way, and while the breakthrough moments themselves donít guarantee sustained transformation, their increased frequency is remarkable.
The Translucent Revolution draws on the authorís dialogues with thousands of writers, teachers, and workshop participants around the world who have been touched by a radical awakening, and whose lives emanate translucence. He blends observation, anecdote, and research, including commentaries from leading pioneers in the field of human consciousness like , to offer simple, concrete strategies for cultivating a translucent way of life. The Translucent Revolution offers a blueprint for positive change and an optimistic perspective on these uncertain times.
"Radical Awakening ... the moment when you taste reality outside the limiting confines of the mind, when you know yourself to be limitless, much bigger than, yet containing the body, beyond birth and death, eternally free. Despite the activity of thought and feeling, you know yourself to be the silence experiencing that movement. It is the moment when you can intuit the real potential of life, free from the incessant mental machinery of complaint and ambition. A radical awakening often releases a tidal wave of creativity and generosity of spirit, a natural impulse to serve and contribute. In these moments, we know that love is who we are, not something we sometimes feel."
A confusing quality of the book is the definition of Translucents, as the experiences seem to range from those who have had quite profound and permanent awakenings - certainly way beyond anything I've experienced! - down to others who are basically very ordinary and conservative people, but just with a little bit of awakening and insight (your base level New Age / Cultural Creative / Integral community person in other words). And as I read more I realised that what he is describing falls into the latter category, not the former (which is what I am interested in). This is indicated by Ardagh's rather pointless "Spiritual Myths List" which is central to his book, but is basically a straw man argument that says nothing.
I would ask, is there anyone, anywhere, who really believes or teaches that "spiritual awakening...(w)hat remains is just a homogenous oneness with everything"? And so on with the whole list except for the last which seems to be a straw man directed at a cartoon version of old style leftism. But mixed in with straw man charicatures is the element of dualistic and hedonistic thinking - e.g. Osho lifestyle tantra and Esalen feel-good Californian pop spirituality. For example, he lists among the myths "Money corrupts"; implying that money doesn't corrupt. Well, tell that to the victims of abusive gurus! Only an authentic Realizer like Ramana or Anandamaya Ma is at the level where money no longer corrupts.
To be fair to Ardagh, a lot of his book clearly seems to grow from the sort of disillusionment we all have with the New Age/Eastern Guru/Spiritual Teacher movements to "deliver the goods". People who expect enlightenment remain just as screwed up and limited as before. That's because, obviously, none of these so-called spiritual teachers are in any way Enlightened. They aren't even at the level of the Intermediate Zone. They aren't even at the level of gnosis. Because of this, the author incorrectly assumes that there is such a thing as Supreme Enlightenment (in other words, because he hasn't met an Enlightened Being in person, assuming he would even recognise one if he did), and instead adopts a well-meaning but at the same time muddled definition that comes from a place of exoteric consciousness. i.e. anyone and everyone who has any awakening or opening at all beyond ordinary ego-shadow consciousness, from the most banal to the most awesome, is a "translucent"
At the same time, although not providing any information at all regarding what authentic Realization means, this is still, from a social (and social evolution) point of view , an important book in that it provides a very detailed look at the postmaterialistic spirituality of the American holistic / Cultural Creative demographic. There is certainly a strong overlap between Ardagh's "Translucents" and Paul Ray's " Cultural Creatives" .
Of interest here is the idea of a collective shift in consciousness. According to Ardagh there really is a huge shift in consciousness occuring. This fits with what people in the Integral Movement like Ken Wilber, Steve McIntosh, and Andrew Cohen and the staff at EnlightenNext are saying, although Wilber and McIntosh would distinguish between "Cultural Creatives" and "Integralists". However there are a number of other possible factors that could explain this, without a global evolutionary shift. At the moment, I honestly don't know which of these two explanations are correct. (Here's a discussion of the book on the Integral Institute (Wilberian) book club)
I did find Ardagh's book very useful in helping to explain features of many gurus, which I previously classified as "Intermediate Zone". Most of these are simply "Translucents" (see classification here) who arrogantly or deludely believe that they can present themselves as "Enlightened" Spiritual Teachers or Gurus, when they are no more evolved - in fact may often be less evolved - then many of their students, devotees, and disciples.
An alternative term, instead of "Translucent", could be Transpersonal. These are individuals who have a Transpersonal opening, who have developed some measure of Transpersonal consciousness; an awareness beyond their ordinary state. Speaking simplistically, one can assume a spectrum of Ego-Shadow (what Ardagh calls "Iago" after a sinister character in Shakespeare's play Othello) - Transpersonal/Translucent - Gnosis - Intermediate Zone - Enlightenment. This can be represented as follows
|Ego-Shadow||Translucent||Gnosis||The "Intermediate Zone"||Realization||Divinization|
The Intermediate Zone might be defined as a powerful state in which - as with authentic Enlightened beings - the devotee can aquire experiences through "contagion". With a "Translucent", there would be much less likelihood of this, or none at all, because they are closer to ordinary consciousness. But the fact remains that many devotees of merely transpersonal/translucent (and common gnostic) gurus do have such experiences. In this case the explanation provided by David Lane ("neural surfer") ( Wikipedia page) is probably much better, that it is the devotee him or herself that creates the feelings ( he calls it the Kirpal Statistic (link) (link). Of course this does not mean we should make simplistic generalisations of this; there is no real way to tell where Transpersonal ends and Intermediate Zone begins