“Make no mistake about it. Enlightenment is a destructive process. It has nothing to do with becoming better or becoming happier. Enlightenment is the crumbling away of untruth. It is seeing through the façade of pretense. It is the complete eradication of everything we imagined to be true.”

Finding purpose in life is no easy undertaking in a culture as distorted, confused and mechanistic as ours. This is especially so when you consider how little emphasis and value we place on ritual and rites of passage. For, as young people come up in this world, there are very few opportunities to shed the old self and step into the new person one must become in order to be a happy and productive member of society.

Self-actualisation and individuation are given little attention, and when you add to this the influence of corporate interests, the confusion is exacerbated. When the confusion reaches a peak, we are diagnosed with psychological disorders and all-too-often drugged into conformity, where no one really knows what exactly is happening to you.

“You become completely lobotomized by a culture that doesn’t know what really the hell is going on with you.”
~Malidoma Patrice Some.~

Author and spiritual leader Malidoma Patrice Somé is a Dagara elder of Burkina Faso, Africa. His insight into the challenging spiritual journey of healers and shamans in our contemporary world was described in the article, What a Shaman Sees in a Mental Hospital, which discusses the vastly different ways cultures can look at a person who seems to be going ‘crazy,’ or experiencing a mental crisis.

To Somé, a crisis of this type is akin to receiving a call from the spirit world, which serves to disrupt ordinary consciousness and compels the person on a journey of discovery to find out how to reconcile the material and spiritual energies at play in their life. If the call goes unanswered or is ignored all together, the crisis appears to deepen as the person is driven mad by the refusal to integrate spiritual energy in a way that serves them and their community.

This type of enlightenment is a type of awakening to one’s inherent healing powers, and they must first heal themselves, then turn their constructive en ergies toward the service of their community. At first it does indeed appear to be a destructive process, but if experienced elders and healers rally to help the individual, their unique purpose can be fully recognised, and their sickness becomes a gift which can help other people.

This is vastly different from modern Western culture, where behavioural and psychological anomalies are perceived as chemical imbalances, neurosis, and other problems that need to be ‘fixed’ in order to achieve conformity and uniformity in behaviour and identity.