Reflections on the World as Illusion

By George A. Boyd ©2023

Q: My spiritual teacher says the world is illusion and is evil. Is this really true?

A: There are eight major viewpoints people adopt about the world. In some viewpoints it is evil; in others, it is not:

  1. Hedonism (the pursuit of pleasure) – in this perspective, the world exists so you can experience pleasure; to fulfill all of your desires; and to do, be, and have whatever you want.
  2. Fear and paranoia – in this view, the world is a place where there are good things and bad things; you must be vigilant lest evil people rob you, cheat you, rape you, blackmail you, kidnap you, or murder you. The world is not safe, but there are good and beautiful aspects of the world, too.
  3. Adventure and fun – From this standpoint, the world is a place of mystery and wonder. You want to travel to explore the world and see as much of the world as you can; to learn about the people who live in different nations and their culture and customs; and understand the history of the world. You want to experience fun and adventure.
  4. Compassion and altruism – Through this perceptual frame, the world is a place where many people are suffering due to poverty, societal discrimination, and lack of education, housing, or employment; they may be suffering because of addiction, illness, or disability. You want to do something to help those who are in misery and pain.
  5. Creativity – From this outlook, the world is a place where there is much to discover and learn on the Mental Plane—and out of this learning, there are many ways that you can share your insights and discoveries with others: you can invent new things to improve the lives of others; you can create art and literature to entertain, educate, and inspire others; you can use imagination to visualize new possibilities that lift you out of the limited world of the senses into the more expansive word of the mind.
  6. Self-transcendence – In this point of view, the world is an illusion that the senses and the mind create. You believe that it is your task to transcend the senses and the mind through meditation and gain union with a spiritual essence—your attentional principle, the spirit, a nucleus of identity, or the ensouling entity. Your spiritual teacher tells you that this spiritual essence is your true nature.
  7. Renunciation – From this viewpoint, the world is the devil’s trap to imprison your attention in the matrix of the senses and the mind, and veil the truth from you. You believe that you must remain in perpetual union with the spiritual essence with which you identify, and only follow its guidance and direction—and the commandments of the spiritual teacher who revealed this essence. The world is evil: it is world of temptation or sin that you believe you must assiduously avoid.
  8. Integration – From this vantage point, the world is a place of personal and spiritual growth and actualization. It appears that people pass through each of these stages and eventually arrive at the state of integration that unites appropriate self-discipline, the ability to transcend the Self through meditation, creativity, compassion, and adventure and fun.

Your spiritual teacher beholds the world from perspective seven, renunciation. In this viewpoint, it appears that the world is an evil place, which the webs of illusion pervade.

But you may find that your spiritual teacher, whose worldview is anchored in renunciation, might still practice some form of meditation for self-transcendence and express some type of creativity.

Others who dwell on the platform of renunciation will also engage in self-transcendence and will act out of compassion in service to others.

So, recognize that even though your spiritual teacher is established in renunciation, he or she may still exhibit partial integration through incorporation of other viewpoints.

Q: At what perspective do those who have evil characters operate?

A: It is a perversion of hedonism, the pursuit of pleasure. Some find pleasure in ways that do not harm others and themselves; others seize what they desire through intimidation, coercion, threats, deception, and violence.

Q: Why does full integration not include hedonism and fear and paranoia?

A: The individual who reaches the stage of integration finds pleasure in the world, but his or her motivation is not embedded in the desire matrix of the ego. The individual at the integration stage may still enjoy a good meal, a massage, a hot shower, or the pleasure of lovemaking, but he or she is not identified as the ego—which is perpetually engaged in pursuing desires and chasing ephemeral moments of happiness.

In the same way, the individual who abides in integration recognizes there is evil in the world. He or she uses wisdom to stay away from places where there is danger. He or she does not frequent places where there is contact with criminals, drug dealers, and those who demonstrate evil character traits.

Through deep reflection, the individual who reaches the shores of integration uproots evil within his or her mind. He or she recognizes these evil tendencies in others. He or she avoids engaging with those who perpetuate evil in the world.