The concept of illusion is perhaps the most fundamental idea in Eastern Gnosticism. The entire philosophical and theological foundation of Eastern perception is to differentiate the real from the unreal, truth from falsehood, reality from illusion, the “rope from the snake.” The modern age moves in a decidedly different direction, secular and religious alike. The modern mind strives to leave the past behind while moving endlessly into a fantastical future fueled by the ennui of the present.
In the eyes of modernity, the individual becomes the God, the teacher a worthless charlatan who peddles the snake oil of Tradition. However within the esoteric conceptual realm of the Desert, the image of the illusory mirage becomes of paramount importance.
The mirage is a powerful metaphor which takes on a dangerous presence in almost all areas of personal experience and esoteric transformation and is deeply connected to the wanderings within the sparse Desert realms of the Soul. The image of a lost traveler tracking a course towards a never reachable mirage paints a puissant image of the blindly confident spiritual seeker in the modern environment. The lost pilgrim quite often possesses a map, yet chooses to follow what he “sees with his own eyes.”
Does this not represent the modern spiritual explorer who is not only unconcerned about not having a teacher or a system but actually revels in the lack of guidance or direction? Fueled by emotions and ego-driven fantasies, the explorer rages on and on lost in the emotionally stimulated atmosphere of the mirage. Often the explorer is not even aware they he is lost as long as he is emotionally stimulated or validated. This is often the most dangerous situation and is the foundational belief structure of the fundamentalist viewpoint in all types of spiritual expression.
The idea of the mirage applies not only to the individual in the Desert milieu of the Soul but also to the environment in which the individual is born and nurtured: the “world.” From an esoteric perspective we can view the entire world as a mirage, a meta-illusion created by the collected individual mirages of the walking dead, a collective perceptual agreement nourished by the emotion of fear and ego-fueled solipsism.
Perhaps the most common and most insidious mirage which infuses the world and the minds of its inhabitants is the illusory division of the sacred and the profane, the belief that the esoteric is distinctly removed and separated from the exoteric. This is one of the many characteristics of the Virus of Modernity, the modern idea of progress; as humanity “evolves”, it moves further away from the sacred realms seen as “primitive” or “unscientific”, replacing the Gods with science and reason.
The voice of the Soul is no longer the guide in this apparent “evolution” of man and society, the mind is transformed from a mystery into a computer, and Artificial Intelligence is seen as the pinnacle of man’s hope as well as his constant existential dread. The sacred is utterly and completely exiled.
These are vitally important concepts to consider as we enter the Desert realms of the Soul. The modern mirage of the radical disconnect between the sacred and the mundane obfuscates the entire modern vision and seeps into almost every aspect of human life and experience. This mirage must be addressed and dissipated if one wishes to explore deeper regions of spiritual experience outside the imagination or egoic fantasy. It is extremely common for the concept of the imagination to be glorified and even apotheosized within modern thought, esoteric and exoteric alike.
Often entire systems are built upon the façade of the imagination, much like entire personalities are built upon remembrance and second-hand information. While imagination can be an integral facet of creativity and visualization, it is a mere tool which can easily be vitiated by emotions, fear and the shallow palate of the ego. This is one of the fundamental reasons why Eastern systems of Gnosticism provide clear instructions and symbols, transmitted from teacher to student directly, for the practitioner to utilize.
The systems of Hinduism and Buddhism for example do not encourage the individual to blindly imagine according to whim or desire; specific and detailed imagery / instructions are provided, a topographic vista is presented. Despite what the modern mind likes to “imagine”, the ability to self-navigate the shadowy and illusory realms of the mind and the liminal is suspect at best and horrific at worst. One cannot imagine one’s self out of a mirage.
And what if the mirage is the entire world?
One of the most fundamental disconnects between the sacred and the mundane which manifests within the individual is the radical disconnect between the corporeal and the Numinous, the body and the Soul. This is in many ways the ultimate mirage, and one which lays the groundwork for the larger mirage: a barren landscape emptied of the whispers of the Numinous, the modern world.
This is essentially due to the parity of discrimination and detachment found within individuals navigating the mirage of the modern environment and the mirage of the human experience. Individuals without the weapons and tools of discrimination and detachment fall prey to any mirage presented to the senses and can be easily manipulated via mirage as well.
This is one of the dangerous ways in which the glamorization of the imagination becomes a metastasizing parasite feeding off the likes and dislikes of the individual ego growing ever larger the deeper the individual stimulates the emotions.
Entering the Desert: Pilgrimage to the Hinterlands of the Soul (Anathema Publishing, 2017)