The Desolate Landscape – A Meditation on Illusion

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.”

Many strange things will happen when undertaking spiritual pilgrimages.

On one of my trips to India / Tibet, I remember traveling deep into the Tibetan desert. Days turned into weeks and the perception of reality dramatically shifted as you moved further and further away from typical mundane concerns.

Our caravan had stopped to discuss lodging options and I noticed something off in the distance. At first I thought I was hallucinating, we were at a high altitude, perhaps I needed water. But, on further examination I was not: it was a pool table in the middle of the desolate landscape….with a dog relaxing in its shade.

No pool sticks were available but I did spend some time with the dog, and take a photo to remind myself I was not hallucinating.

It was a strange, strange day…

In order to enter into the deeper levels of esoteric awareness, what we are calling the “desert of the Soul,” the individual must be able to effectively differentiate the mirage from a valid experience. This has significant ramifications on not just the esoteric realms but in all realms of experience and being, individually and collectively. We can consider the “desert” on two vital levels: the individual’s internal “desert” of the Soul and the outer “desert” of the collective environment of the world or “modernity.”

These two environments are the shapers of destiny, essentially the topography of an individual’s life. The level in which the individual is immersed in the Desert of the Soul is inversely related to one’s ability to navigate the Desert of the world free from fear and uncertainty, and the level of one’s deluded immersion in the world reflects one’s connection to the Soul.

Therefore one must deeply know oneself and cultivate the ability to ruthlessly and effectively dismantle psychological and spiritual illusions which fuel and construct the personal, and worldly, mirage. But to accomplish this self-exploration requires sobering honesty and guidance from one who has charted the deep waters of the Soul and returned to the solid ground, in a seemingly mundane form.

The self-exploration is ruthless and often times dangerous, but no more dangerous than the outcome of the avoidance of this esoteric surgery.”

Quotations taken from Entering the Desert – Pilgrimage to the Hinterland of the Soul (Anathema Publishing, 2017)


One Comment Add yours

  1. cynthia mckinney says:


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