It says something about our narcissistic culture that “disillusionment” is considered a disease, and not cure, convalescence, and self-recovery. What’s to value about being “illusioned” in the first place? It’s the condition of illusionment that is the disease.

Disillusionment is, in fact, the very meaning of “apocalypse” as disclosure or revelation of truth. The deeper the illusion, the more shattering the truth when it finally asserts itself. This is why acknowledging truth is sometimes very painful. “The cure for the disease is in the disease” is the great Rumi’s cryptic remark about malaise and disillusionment. Illusionment is narcissism and is connected to what Ernst Becker called “the denial of death”.

Those who resist and refuse disillusionment-as-revelation are precisely those we call “denialists” and reactionaries. Embrace disillusionment. Even when it feels like death it is the dispelling of the Cloud of Unknowing.  One can even say that the “malaise of modernity” is, in fact, the experience of disillusionment.

Disillusionment often comes wearing the mask of nihilism and attended by a mood of cynicism. Cynicism, as a response, is often only the inability to penetrate by insight below the surface appearance of things into the revelatory or creative energy hidden within the nihilistic dynamic. We are not in this world to be illusioned, but to dispense with illusion and the illusory; and that means, to learn — to clarify our awareness and expand the horizons of our perception.

Disillusionment is the Dance of Shiva. Disillusionment is Nietzsche’s incinerating “stare into the abyss” and the death of God. Disillusionment is the retrospective gaze over the last 2,000 years with the cry, “in vain!” Disillusionment is Ecclesiastes crying “vanity of vanity, all is vanity” — vanus, empty. Disillusionment is the sleeper awakening from a dream in the land of shadows. Disillusionment is also the Buddha declaring “all is empty” — that nothing has “self-nature” — anatman, no-mind. Disillusionment is Blake’s Albion rising “from where he labour’d at the Mill with Slaves: Giving himself for the Nations he danc’d the dance of Eternal Death”. Disillusionment is Zarathustra’s “I say unto you: one must still have chaos in oneself to be able to give birth to a dancing star.”

Would that there were actually more disillusionment.

Truth comes to us when we are prepared to be disillusioned and in the midst of our disillusionment. The disillusionment or “dark night of the soul” of what is called the “political left” may well turn out to be its greatest advantage, if it doesn’t slide into cynicism. Slavoj Žižek complains about disillusioned Marxists becoming Buddhists, thereby betraying himself as a reactionary. It was, however, a necessary turn, and a completely necessary response to the experience of disillusionment. This “Western turn” to the East was in recognition of the limitations and deficiencies of the mental-rational structure of consciousness. From this turn or marriage of East and West has already emerged what is called “engaged Buddhism”, a “revolutionary Buddhism” in the manner of David Loy and Thich Nhat Hahn. Here, disillusionment has spurred the quest for a greater clarification of consciousness and the attempt to realise a more fulfilling and encompassing truth.

Poor Slavoj Žižek hasn’t been sufficiently disillusioned to rise again as a Phoenix.

The real evil of our time is illusionment, and that is connected to the “culture of narcissism” — a rejection and a refusal to allow oneself to be remade or transformed by new truth, but to continue to cling and grasp at illusions, and particularly the illusion called “self-image”. “Trapped in the Mirror”, is how the title of one book on narcissism puts it, quite appropriately.

Disillusionment is precisely the theme of Rumi’s poem on emptiness,

Essence is emptiness.
Everything else accidental.

Emptiness brings peace to your loving.
Everything else, disease.

In this world of trickery emptiness
is what your soul wants.

What is true — and enduringly true — about ourselves and our reality always survives and shines through the incinerating effect of disillusionment, as long as we don’t flee from it into what are just other, surrogate illusions and shadows.



4 responses to “Disillusionment”

  1. luchte says :

    Right on the money….

  2. LittleBigMan says :

    Disillusionment is the true alchemy of “cleansing the doors of perception.” It seems to me that the first step toward disillusionment would be to inculcate in the masses the polar nature of existence over the dichotomized or fragmented versions that have been spoon fed using a culture of greed, ill will, and the delusionary ego-consciousness.

    As if it is easy to untangle ourselves from the webs of our own individual ego-consciousness, now we have to face (as David Loy explains) the institutionalized versions of greed, ill will, and delusion, too.

    Delusion on a mass scale demands disillusionment on a mass scale. Only nature has the power to break the bonds of illusion en masse. methinks. I can’t help but wonder if there will ever be a crack in the camouflage of reality. That would help. A lot.

  3. abdulmonem says :

    Disillusionment is an in-between state,it recalled to my mind the Sufis concepts of proximity (grub) and distance (bud), as if we are in constant movement away from the source and back to the source, that is everything which wonders away from it , is made to return to it. In that context disillusionment is a process of return if only we become aware of how these antagonistic processes are working through the in-between state. Peter Young the principal of the Beshara school of esoteric education, in his article , working together between god two hands, discuss that, asking , have we become a catastrophe with regard to the world as a totality, emphasizing that we must be aware that we are manifestations of god, capable of knowing, loving and be loved. A being created for a purpose, endowed with a will without which he can not reflect his image of reality, that is to know the real knower and to wait for the real knower to let us know what is to be known, the purpose of all spiritual endeavor is to move from the darkness to the light of knowledge. By the way the meaning of beshara is good tiding.

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