“The human mind is a delusion generator, not a window to truth. The best any human can do is to pick a delusion that helps him get through the day.” ~ Scott Adams
1) You’ve stopped questioning things
“That which can be destroyed by the truth should be.” ~ P.C. Hodgell
The quickest way to get stuck in delusion is to stop questioning things. Questioning reality is the cornerstone of progressive enlightenment. In fact, the only way to transcend delusion is to stay ahead of it by questioning everything and not relying on answers. Better to come up with improved questions. It’s only when we stop questioning that our delusions take control and lead us into stagnation. Or worse, regression.
Even the most enlightened individual is not immune to this. If they were to stop questioning they too would fall victim to their own delusions and all their “enlightenment” will have been for not. That is the purpose of the famous Zen kōan: “If you meet the Buddha on the road, kill him.” When Buddha exists anywhere else other than within, it is an illusion. One must destroy the illusion and continue along the path of one’s own unique Buddha nature. The journey is the thing, even if the destination is not achievable.
2) Your enlightenment has become religious rather than spiritual
“Faith: not wanting to know what is true. Convictions are more dangerous foes of truth than lies.” ~ Friedrich Nietzsche
Your perceived enlightenment may be a delusion if you are trying to stuff it into the finite box of religion while forsaking the infinite nature of spirituality.
Enlightenment can only manifest from a spiritual disposition. Never from a religious one. This is precisely because religion is limited, while spirituality is unlimited. Spirituality is flexible, while religion is dogmatic. Spirituality is open-minded, while religion is close-minded. Spirituality is liberating and courage-based, while religion is authoritative and fear-based. Spirituality is interdependent, while religion is codependent. Spirituality speaks “a language older than words,” while religion speaks a language limited by words.
Spirituality is vulnerable intimacy with the Infinite. Religion is veiled invulnerability pretending to be intimate. A spiritual person understands that Infinity cannot be pigeonholed into finite constructs. God cannot be crammed into manmade models. Through such understanding, the spiritual person transcends the finite game of religion to play the infinite game of spirituality. As Hingori said, “Spirituality begins where religion ends.”
3) You can’t admit that you might be wrong
“The population suffers from a fear of change. Their conditioning assumes a static identity, and challenging one’s belief system usually results in insult and apprehension, for being wrong is erroneously associated with failure. When in fact, to be proven wrong should be celebrated, for it is elevating someone to a new level of understanding.” ~ Peter Joseph
No matter how much we think we know, there is nearly an infinite amount of information that we don’t know. And yet we still cling to what we think we know despite this. We want our beliefs to be true so badly that we believe in vain. We unreasonably and illogically shutdown, raising nearly insurmountable walls of cognitive dissonance.
But what is belief? Is it not just our vain yearning to force an idea, ideology, or worldview into being foolproof? Is it not just our futile attempt at pigeonholing hope? Is it not merely pretense in hard makeup?
We tend to dodge the difficulty of thought, sidestep the challenge of imagination, and then we go straight for the easy way out: leaning like a cripple on hand-me-down, ill-conceived, outdated beliefs in religion and politics that are spoon-fed to us in the form of propagandized cultural conditioning and indoctrinated brainwashing. And then we wonder where we went wrong. As Ursula K. Le Guin states, “belief is a wound that knowledge heals.”
4) Your enlightenment is ego-driven rather than soul-driven
“We realize–often quite suddenly–that our sense of self, which has been formed and constructed out of our ideas, beliefs and images, is not really who we are. It doesn’t define us, it has no center.” ~ Adyashanti
If you are confusing the aggrandizement of your ego for enlightenment, then you may be deluding yourself. This is easy to do. When an uninitiated ego attempts to force feed itself sacred knowledge, the energy tends to manifest itself narcissistically. In such cases, ego-initiation is in order. The Cocoon of Initiation awaits to annihilate the ego into a soul-caliber force to be reckoned with. Otherwise ego-centrism rules.
When our enlightenment is ego-centric, there is a divisive feeling of disconnection and imbalance. Which leads to delusion. When our enlightenment is soul-centric, there is a holistic feeling of interconnectedness and harmony. Which leads to union.
The ego (struggling to discover Soul) tries to convince us that we must act independently in order to achieve enlightenment. The soul (subsuming the ego) guides us into the understanding that we are interdependent agents proactively engaged with becoming enlightened. The ego-driven path is results-oriented (which leads to delusion). The soul-driven path is process-oriented (which overcomes delusion). The process is the thing, not the result.
5) You’ve chosen comfortable stagnation over painful growth
“We can choose courage or we can choose comfort, but we can’t have both.” ~ Brené Brown
Other than not questioning things, nothing leads to delusion quicker than becoming too comfortable. In fact, the main thing preventing us from stretching our comfort zones, other than fear, is delusion. Even if we somehow manage to embrace our fears, there is still the nearly insurmountable walls of self-created delusion we must hurdle over before we can truly begin the adventurous yet uncomfortable task of stretching our comfort zone.
It’s so easy to remain comfortable and secure that we forget that enlightenment is a ruthless progression that is anything but comfortable and secure. As Adyashanti said, “Make no mistake about it – enlightenment is a destructive process. It has nothing to do with becoming better or being happier. Enlightenment is the crumbling away of untruth. It’s seeing through the facade of pretense. It’s the complete eradication of everything we imagined to be true.”
6) You believe in someone else’s experience rather than your own
“We are all unique medicine.” ~ Angeles Arrien
Here’s the thing with enlightenment: no two enlightenments are the same. Your enlightenment will be nothing like Buddha’s enlightenment, or Christ’s, or Rumi’s. Your path toward enlightenment will be as unique as your own fingerprint. There’s nothing wrong with climbing onto the shoulders of giants from time to time, to learn and to see farther/further than they did, but it is critical to your own enlightenment that you do not remain there.
Delusions galore emerge from a seeker who vainly attempts to pigeonhole their spiritual development into that of another. Better to remain flexible and aloof on your path. Better to take the sacred knowledge passed down by others into deep consideration, learn what you can, and then move on with your integrated knowledge in tow. Indeed, better to merge their thesis with your antithesis into a holistic synthesis that is flexible and adaptable enough to achieve meta-synthesis.
7) You’ve lost your sense of humor
“The enlighten fool is the one who sees the ego trips of society and can still find joy and laughter in its midst. The fool is often the enlightened one, the one with crazy wisdom, with laughter and jokes as their weapon, they cut through mundane conformity and bring to light the latent child-like bliss bubbling just beneath the surface of all seriousness. The fool possesses a wisdom that is out of reach of the conformist. A playful attitude in touch with enormous amounts of creativity.” ~ Chad Foreman
It turns out that enlightenment is really just having a good sense of humor. If you are taking your enlightenment too seriously, then you are probably deluding yourself. True enlightenment is never overly serious. And it’s certainly never self-serious, except when it does so on purpose and as a means toward showing how ridiculous it is to take ourselves too seriously.
Having a good sense of humor is a seeker’s saving grace. For as soon as the throne or the pedestal or the high-horse of our enlightenment becomes too big for itself, as soon as delusions of grandeur manifest, a good sense of humor knocks us back down to earth so that the vital process of self-overcoming can continue to overcome itself.
A good sense of humor is the ultimate psycho-social-spiritual leveling mechanism. It slashes across the Achilles Heel of our certainty, revealing our fallible “feet of clay.” It humbles us in the same motion as it honors the process of our enlightenment. It gives us a sacred space where we are free to laugh at it all: at our mortal coils, at the vastness of the cosmos, and in the face of “the gods.”
So that we may remain diligent, circumspect, and not so damn serious all the time. Indeed. So that we may manage laughter, smiles, and joy despite our suffering. As Alan Watts said, “People suffer only because they take seriously what the gods made for fun.”