New Age mystics say the world we perceive is a self-generated illusion. I agree, and the answer to this ponderous notion is simpler than you think. Here are some of the illusions we create around ourselves:
- We think we understand ourselves— when we hurt, sometimes we don’t want to feel it, so we bury it within ourselves. Rather than feel the hurt, we create a story we tell ourselves to make ourselves feel better about ourselves. These buried emotions become motives that drive us, and we don’t really understand why we behave as we do. (It took me until I was 48 until I understood why I aligned myself with feminists in my 20s… it was the result of how much it hurt to always be picked last for elementary school kickball. Rather than feel the hurt, I told myself that men were bad, and that motive drove me for close to a decade.)
- We think we understand each other— we believe that we understand each other’s motives enough to accurately assess/indict/judge them, but how can we when we can’t even understand ourselves? When things go badly in relationships, we feel perfectly justified in treating the other poorly, yet our the conclusions we use to justify our poor behavior are full of assumptions, and the nature of assumptions is they are often wrong.
- We see no contradiction in taking credit for all the good in our lives and none for the bad— when things aren’t turning out the way we want we often fail to ask the most important question, “what can I do to shift outcomes in the direction I want?” Just like exercise and bathing, doing it once won’t cut it. When things don’t work out, the reality is we had more to do with it than we think. We allow the illusion that we play no role in the bad in our lives.
We live in a self-created illusion. We don’t understand ourselves nor each other, but we are convinced of the opposite.
When considering the real alternative, ego wants nothing to do with it, as it involves examining hurts buried for a reason. It requires acknowledging that we really don’t know ourselves, or others. It requires that we give up our righteous assessments of others, and instead try to really understand them. Ego rejects this and offers up yet another illusion— that this couldn’t possibly be what mystics were referring to. They must have meant something that intense yoga or meditation or prayer or some other practice might reveal. And so we invent another illusion to keep us away from reality.
Not sure? Read on…