The Illusion of Happiness


As above, so below; as within, so without; as the universe, so the soul.

~ Hermes Trismegistus

The “mindfulness” revolution has evolved into a $4.5 trillion industry that perpetuates a preoccupation with some sort of a happiness index to relieve a stressful life. The mindfulness revolution promotes an individual state of mind that is fixated on self-transformation with not much regard to the core elements of suffering at the individual and collective levels. With the commercialized hype of “mindfulness”, which is misleadingly interchanged with the original practice of meditation, a form of cruel optimism is promoted. This illusory self-indulgent practice, although it works for a number of subscribers to reduce the “doing-ness” of everyday life, rarely resolves mental health challenges, whether individually or collectively levels. To understand the reason behind this perpetual falsity of being, it is important to understand the natural duality of being.

The quote at the beginning of this piece is a verse from the Emerald Tablet of Hermes, the core foundation of Hermetic Philosophy, which is said to have held “the secret of all secrets” of existence. Legend has it that Alexander the Great found the tablet in the Tomb of Hermes Trismegistus, the threefold god of wisdom, writing, and alchemy during one of his conquests.

The wisdom of the Emerald Tablet holds within it the truth of creation and the nature of all beings within the nature of existence. This truth acknowledges the physical and non-physical nature of all things in existence. The key to understanding the truth of nature is to acknowledge the workings of the elements within: the alchemy of life cannot occur without the ‘chaos of the elements’ from which the magic is borne. Similar to true alchemical quintessence, the expansion of consciousness (and “mindlessness”, as it ought to be) necessitates that we understand the underlying mechanisms within all beings, including ourselves. ‘Know Thyself’ is the age-old adage in reference to knowing oneself in the same way that alchemy allows a deeper understanding of the inside of a substance (prima materia) when it is reverted back into the chaos of the elements. This similar alchemical knowledge of oneself is the underlying mechanism of what being human is and has the capacity to become.

Our guiding compass in life is an internal holographic blueprint that is an accumulation of experiences and splits that have formed at times of intense emotionality. Earlier experiences in life are processed with a framework of absolutes and generalizations. When a child encounters painful experiences over which it is helpless, the child will make an effort to understand this experience as a way of taking back some control. The child will make generalizations about life based on her own experience and will work throughout her life to recreate experiences that validate this conclusion. As innate expectations of protection are not met, adaptation of a life script occurs. To the child it is as if alien forces were applying pressure against her growth; unless she yields to these pressures life becomes extremely difficult. Therefore, the child is forced to abdicate her birthright, and she does this by readjusting her expectations and wishes to fit into the situation. The generalizations that are made lock the soul in a defensive modality. From that point of formation, the child (and later, the adult) lives in a dualistic world in which experiences, people, attitudes and relationships are either “good” or “bad”, either “approved” or “not approved”. Images always reinforce the dualistic beliefs of “either/or”. The person sees the present through the lens of the conclusions that were made about life when earlier experiences were felt and defenses were built to defend against the pain of the present. Images of life can also take the form of false connections between cause and effect (“if....”, “then....”). Consequently, conflicting ego-states are formed in an attempt to ward the self off future pain and to quell the inner conflicts.

Later in life, the internal holographic blueprint is activated by life events at an unconscious level and begins to direct the person’s path while attracting circumstances and relationships that best re-enact the original trauma symbolically. With these, a life pattern or a life script is formed, which keeps recreating the original pain that eventually leads the person to crack, and, hopefully, seek healing. Life events mirror the inner blueprint of the person’s psyche. It is only when the distorted inner reality is transformed that we are able to change our outer reality and heal. It is only when we accept the chaos of elements as part of who we truly are that we are able to expand our consciousness and to be in alignment with our innate truth.

The biggest illusion we live in our restricted consciousness is the illusion of the “happy index” – an elusive concept that is stamped in our ego-consciousness from birth, nurtured by family of origin, pop culture, religious institutions, the media, and the world at large. We live in constant barrage of “release yourself from pain and suffering to achieve a happy life”, “achieve this or that to succeed and be happy”, “be with this person or that to be happy”, “buy this product/service, and your life will be happier, and “eat this or that to live a healthier and happier life”. We are perpetually bombarded with the happiness project, the positive index, and the elusive dream. Even in seeking personal and spiritual growth, our desire is to enhance the “positive experience” and to eliminate the “negative” from our lives. We seek peace, harmony, health pleasure and happiness and exclude pain, distress, illness and unhappiness. The spiritual crisis occurs when the soul yells out in countless ways to bring us closer to our unified reality, where all aspects of the psyche converge. Our true self, in its wholeness, sends us coded messages in whichever way it can – whether through illness, dreams or encounters with the numinous and the dark night of the soul – to push us to embrace the dualities, the inner opposites, and the repressed shadow of the psyche. It is when we struggle to embrace only the positive side of our human existence that we perpetuate the split-off from the real self. When we seek one side of the opposites, we deny the other side. With this denial, the psyche will never be experienced as a whole and will remain in a fearful, fragmented state of being.

To experience love, pleasure and creative expansion, we must also accept fear, pain and contraction. In denying the “bad”, we constrict our capacity to experience the “good”. When we close off one side of our psyche, we close the other side. When we open to wholeness, we open it all. Carl Jung, the father of the unconscious realm, recognized that duality is the fact of human nature that cannot be denied, “Every good quality has its bad side, and nothing that is good can come into the world without directly producing a corresponding evil. Similar to the symbol of the mandala, the self represents that center of the psyche arriving at its wholeness through the integration of all its elements. It is with the integration of the conscious as well as the unconscious aspects of the psyche that we can emerge into wholeness and reclaim selfhood. We cannot see the light without going through the darkness. The mystery and paradox of existence is such that non-duality requires duality. Understanding and accepting the natural state of duality of the other allows us to accept the natural duality of the self. As above so below. As within, so without. There is no amount of money in this world, no magical mindfulness course, and no “positive living” retreat that can change the core elements of life’s alchemy.

Affirmation: I see the light when I know the dark.


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