The goal for many of us now is not what is used to be. It is not simply the attainment of a respectable job. It is not simply a good stable marriage and two kids.

The goal is now—for a growing community of us— to self-actualize.

The imperative is nothing short of soul-realisation, that slow and onerous path that leads through all of the things we least want to look at, toward that which we yearn so deeply for. To become who we really are.

It is relinquishing the mistaken notion of who we should be, and instead devoting ourselves to the authenticity project.

It is the descent into our original nature—the embodying of our natural heritage. And the accent into our highest self—who we are called to become.

This is the path that lies before you and I.

And it is one, whose course I believe we must now follow. This is the responsibility of our privilege—the hero’s journey of our time.

And yet by nature of seeing this soul-path, and opening up the potential to walk its course, we simultaneously open the way along another path.

The shadow of privilege

Every omega has its delta. Every genius has its shadow. Every quest has its challenge. Every action has an equal and opposite reaction.

In each way that we make possible a great good, we create the potential for a great ill. At the moment the ship was invented, so was the shipwreck.

As the height of opportunity reaches high into the heavens of our new world, so the slide down into hell lengthens to balance the polarity.

We have never been so free to discover the divinity of life, so protected and provided for, so encouraged and enabled. As the straps of conformity have frayed and rotted, we have been released to rise into the heights of self-realization.

But these rotten straps of conformity were holding us back from more than self-realization. They were holding us back from the fall down into the pits of nihilistic insignificance. That horrible affliction where we do not matter and have no place.

For the natural opposite of soul-driven self-realisation is a dark reality indeed—the absence of intrinsic meaning, the arbitrary nature of existence. The pointlessness of Being.

This is the monster at the bottom of every dark mood. The spectre of the possibility that we are in fact insignificant. That it doesn’t matter, that whatever we do, it doesn’t matter. Because there’s no deeper origin, no higher destination.

It is the germ of darkness that infects us when we turn away from what we know is most important, and fall into the self-doubt that we must supress with doughnuts or Netflix.

The famous story goes that the world is resting on the back of a turtle, which in turn is resting on the back of a great turtle, ad infinitum. It’s turtles all the way down.

The story of nihilism is that the world is resting on nothing. Randomness. Arbitrary form based on random context. There is no pattern to things. No great story that we are the protagonist within.

We are simply the clever ape, who made up a world of language and clever objects to distract us from the horrendous truth that we are an accident of random mutations.

There is no deeper truth. There is no deeper code.

And what else can we do in the face of such a story but fall into the depths of apathy? For what is the point of doing anything, when there is no point to anything? What is the point of striving harder for the attainment of this year’s goals, when there is no actual goal to life?

This is the world when the deeper code and the higher nature are stripped from it. When God and Soul are cleaved from the body of the world, and we are left in the empty expanse of empty cups and Instagram likes.

The temptation of ignorance

I’ve long thought about the scene in the Matrix where Cipher betrays Neo because he just doesn’t want to be in the real world any longer. He says “plug me back in to the matrix—take me back”. In other words he’d rather have ignorant contentment, than cold hard reality.

I can relate.

Especially in those inevitable moments when expectation presses down on me, I get into unhelpful habits, and things just don’t seem to go my way.

“Why does this feel so hard? Why do I feel so unsafe?”

Because the path of self-realization is hard. Is isn’t safe. That’s why we don’t happily choose it, and why so few embody its truths.

The darkness of nihilism is the opposite of soul-realization. And so by choosing the path of soul-realization, you make the experience of nihilism a reality you must face.

Nihilism is enacted when you turn away from the truth—from the brightness of your divine nature, and the illumination of your shadow.

The soul path is choosing the light, including the light in the dark—the sovereign facing of the contents of the dark road.

Walking the path of soul means facing the dark voluntarily­, and viscerally. For it is in the darkness that you find the treasure that can be offered in the light of the world, and of the marketplace.

There are two paths

The sin of nihilism is insidious. It’s right there in your pocket. The never-ending newsfeed. The next click. Then the next. Just one more. OK, one more.

Until there is no one clicking. There is no awareness. The hard-won consciousness of your twenty first century self has been subsumed in the great collective mirage of ego.

We are pulled out of this moment—deep time—into the superficiality of the headline, the promise that maybe this time, the click will fill that existential hole.

This is the sin of superficiality and wilful blindness. Of putting our hands over our ears and pretending we don’t hear the deeper voices. Of numbing our bodies so that we don’t have to feel the pain of something out of alignment.

It’s the price we pay for having freed ourselves so radically from the material necessities of survival, and opened up the path toward self-realization.

Let us join hands

Liberation is not found inside the cheesecake that smothers the feeling of tension. It is not uncovered through the espousal of social ideology or maintaining a glossy Instagram feed.

It is found in the opposite direction—in becoming quiet enough to hear what is beneath the static of social media. It is in feeling ourselves, perhaps for the first time, and in encountering the urgency that each of us feel.

The path is right there before us.

It takes discipline to step out onto it each day. An inch is enough.

It takes faith to keep stepping out, even though the destination is unclear.

It takes courage to face the obstacles—the very things we have spent eons avoiding, and which trigger our deepest vulnerabilities.

But this is what it takes.

This is what separates those who will help build the new world, from those who will exacerbate the darkness out of which it will emerge.

But the terrain is poorly mapped. The path unclear upon the ground of the new world.

Perhaps if we were to join hands, and show each other the way, we might discover the promised land which we cannot help but yearn for.

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Ewan Townhead

I hope you enjoyed the article. If you're interested further in my work, you can find out more about me here, and my coaching here.

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