In the 16th century, European magicians believed they could achieve Enlightenment through secret rituals. As the last stage of the journey, they believed they had cross a spiritual abyss where a demon named Choronzon lived.
These ancient mystics believed they had to cross the abyss of nothingness to get to Enlightenment — and Choronzon was the only thing remaining to stop them.
The demon’s goal is to trap the traveler in a meaningless world of illusion. He shows the seeker all sorts of things designed to appeal to his lusts and desires. Everything he shows them appears real but it’s all illusion. If the traveler gets caught in this meaningless world of illusion, he will never cross the abyss. He will never find the Enlightenment which will give his life meaning.
We all walk through such an abyss. Almost all of us are distracted by the meaningless illusions there. About 20 years ago, I was lucky enough to wake up from my illusions and start stumbling on a path toward the truth. It never would have happened except for a benign tumor.
For a long time — more than 10 years — something had changed in me and I didn’t know what it was. Sometime during college, my personality started changing. I lost interest in pursuing the things which had once seemed so important to me. It’s hard to explain at this point, but I somehow lost myself.
Over time, I accepted doing things the way everybody else does them. That’s vague, but I don’t know how to explain it. I started becoming a cog in the world’s systems. I ended up as a newspaper publisher for a company I hated — a company with values very different from my own — and then things got even worse when I became a political consultant.
I made a lot of money in politics, but I was just a meaningless cog is a very evil system. For a long time, I just accepted that this is how things work. I had ceased trying to make the world a better place — or make myself a better person — and had just joined the pursuit of success and money.
Then I found out that I had a tiny benign tumor on my pituitary gland. There was nothing life-threatening about it. All it did was slightly alter my hormonal system. It produced extra prolactin and suppressed full testosterone production. That tiny chemical difference had changed me.
Once I started taking medication to fix the problem, things changed rapidly. I felt more like the person I had formerly been. As I struggled to explain the change, I told others at the time that it felt as though I had been passively sleepwalking for years.
I had suddenly been able to wake up — and I recognized the life I had pursued as the illusion it was.
Things didn’t change overnight for me. It took me time to recognize which parts of the illusion of modern life I needed to give up. It took me years to complete the transition, but I started moving away from politics, because I realized how evil and meaningless the system was. I started questioning all that I’d been taught, slowly at first and finally in big ways.
As I started changing — and finding meaning in deeper ways than before — I started seeing the horrors of the “normal” modern life. I realized more and more how that life seemed meaningless — how it seemed to hold out the hope of fulfillment and love, but the things that life offered never quite delivered what they promised. The fulfillment was empty; the love was faux love.
I realized there was a tremendous difference between living a conscious life and merely stumbling through existence following paths that other people laid down — paths that led to meaningless achievement or success or milestones. I realized that almost everybody around was was merely existing — not consciously living — by my new standards.
I feel as though I’ve awakened to the realization that a demon such as Choronzon is willing to show me — or anybody — a life that looks as though it must be good enough. But I feel as though most people are still sleepwalking. They still don’t know it’s the demon creating illusions to distract them, so they chase those illusions. I recognize the demon for what he is — and the illusions for what they are — but I still have to keep reminding myself to look away from them.
I keep reminding myself to look toward the Enlightenment and meaning I seek.
It’s easy to chase the illusions. That’s what everyone else is doing, so it seems as though seeking such pleasures and success and reward must be right. It’s the easy path. It’s the path of least resistance.
The path I’ve been on is difficult and confusing, especially when you’re alone. There’s no guarantee that I can even escape the demon’s illusions and make my way through the abyss to find what I seek.
So here’s the question. Was I better off being like other people — pursuing illusions — or am I better off knowing that they’re illusion as I fight to get to something more meaningful?
I believe it’s a better choice to take the risk of seeking meaning rather than staying on the world’s path. I might be wrong, though. Maybe living with those illusions and never seeking something more is easier. If that’s your choice, I can’t criticize you. All I know is that once you see a little bit of truth, chasing the illusions is no longer an option.
When I experienced my hormonal changes years ago, it was exhilarating. I felt as though I had been given a gift. I was granted something most people never get. I had a sudden and radical change which allowed me to see what I’d been doing by following the world. I had the dramatic experience of knowing I had been sleepwalking.
Pursuing a conscious life — by my definitions, anyway — is very difficult. To use the language of the Apostle Paul, I’m still working out my salvation, at least in the sense of being saved from the meaninglessness of this world.
I know I’m not yet where I need to be. I don’t know exactly how I’m going to get there. I don’t know if I’ll be getting there alone or is someone else will be coming with me.
I just know I’m closer than where I was when I was sleepwalking. I know I’m slowly working it out day by day. And I know I need someone who has awakened from the sleepwalking illusions of the world and wants to walk this difficult path with me.