In my book, Working with Kundalini, I talk about a period of severe disillusionment that I went through. This has been something that people have told me was incredibly helpful for them to read about, and is something that many in our world are grappling with right now due to world events.

On the spiritual path what tends to happen with individuals is that they hit pockets of disillusionment, road blocks that show them that things are not quite what they seem. That the world, and the people in it, may not be what they once thought them to be.

We construct our world out of beliefs that arise out of trauma and the conditioning that has been passed down to us by family, ancestry, and society. When the deconditioning process of spiritual awakening occurs, those beliefs and conditioning are questioned and let go of.

Ideally this questioning of reality takes place bit by bit so it can be incorporated; it can be integrated at a pace that is healthy for the individual and doesn’t wreak much havoc on their existence.

But a difficulty that can arise for many on the spiritual path is that there can be a moment of expanded consciousness, an awareness of such striking clarity that arises, that shows that our previous belief systems and what we knew to be true regarding ourselves and the world is false in such a way that our entire existence can come crumbling down. 

This can result in anything from disillusionment to depression to substantial grief. The falling away of past issues and beliefs and conditioning is such a freeing process, but it does involve the grief of facing our past selves. Of recognizing that who we are now would make different decisions and interact with ourselves and the world much differently today (than several years ago, or decades, or in the case of spiritual awakening, a few moments ago).

In my book, The Spiritual Awakening Guide, I talk about the “conditioned layers of reality”. When awakening there is a realization that reality is composed of many layers. The simplest way to understand this is to know that we place emphasis on materialist reality as being the only valid “truth” when this reality is simply the most concrete, the most noticeable.

These conditioned layers of reality provide a lot for us. They are organizing structures, offering everything from societal laws so we can (hopefully) feel safe to larger layers offering us meaning and purpose in our lives. Particularly the mythic and archetypal layers of reality offer us this type of larger, spiritual meaning that while exploring spirituality is what many of us hunger for and are really looking for. 

To see beyond the common, every-day language and meaning-making of our individual existence (go to work, get paid, buy things, etc) to a more mythopoetic understanding of reality, in which we understand the machinations of reality on a larger scale.

In our current reality, much of these conditioned layers of reality are parting. We can consider each layer of reality to be an energetic field, a web of sorts. These layers moving apart, separating, or going through a period of reorganization means that we collectively and personally no longer have them as organizing (containing) agents. With their disorganization, we can more readily see beyond them, but they also are no longer making us feel safety and assuredness about our reality and its stability.

This obviously leads to panic, as well as disillusionment, but it also leads to the ability to examine our lives and our world in a way that is much harder for us to do when the collective fabric of our reality is firmly in tact.

It allows for a personal and collective dark night of the soul, which is a period of rapid growth.

On the spiritual path there is a place that can be referred to alchemically as interfacing with the Hermit. While the entire spiritual path (moving towards enlightenment) can be linked to the figure of Hermes, or Mercury, the mythic figure of this time of the spiritual path is Saturn.

Saturn is the keeper of time, the dark figure that mythically holds the key to working beyond our bondage to the conditioned layers of reality. The last stop, as it were, to moving beyond the fears of death and pain and uncertainty and the fleeting nature of human existence. Such a figure is foreboding, dark, but also offers us the wisdom of the spiritual elders and keepers of our existence.

What can happen on the spiritual path is a descent into ourselves, a digging in our own dirt, to the extent that we come upon this dark void.

This is a place of severe disillusionment, where the conditioned layers of reality have shown themselves to be falsehood. This is also a time where many individuals separate from reality– they join religious orders, or they spend a period of time in solitude out of necessity. 

This is not a common calling, or a necessity, as this is not a place that many people get to… or would want to get to. A clear view of reality is not necessarily what people desire, and those who get to this point understand the sacrifice that wisdom requires.

It is easy for people to get stuck in this type of dark void, to allow for the realization of reality being illusory to cause for them to take the position of being the critic– far enough from society and conditioning to point out what is illusory regarding our world, but not far enough to know that there is something beyond this type of void.

Another thing that commonly arises for people is inner child issues during this time. We were told as children that many of the things that we knew on a visceral, primal level to be true were wrong. When we discover that we were, in fact, right, our inner child can feel justified in what they felt and knew. Our inner child can also latch onto the grief and confusion and pain in being right in a wrong world and spend the bulk of its time immersed in self-righteousness, or proving to others how right we are and how false the world is.

But if we get to a point of seeing and experiencing reality in this void, it is also helpful to understand that there is a path beyond this point.

The breakdown of collective meaning is an opportunity to move into individual meaning.

If we are in a place of no longer having the conditioned layers of reality provide meaning to us, which all of us are experiencing to some degree or another right now, we have the opportunity to create individual meaning.

Often we look for something grandiose, larger than life, or an authority figure of some sort to create meaning for us. 

But individual meaning often comes in small bursts, in short periods of time where we recognize that our small experiences: viewing a flower, having tea with a friend (or by ourselves looking out a window), a laugh from a child, listening to music, or utilizing our creativity in any way allows for this meaning-making to take place.

Realization of illusion allows for a movement beyond illusion to recognition of the layers of reality.

The viewing of reality as inherently false or illusory is still only one aspect of the void. It is still viewing it as binary reality. Spiritual awakening can allow for the movement away from binaries into a recognition of paradoxes.

The recognition that we are living in many layers of reality simultaneously can allow for us to “break through” this. Before this time we will experience reality as this or that, or this vs. that: black vs. white, false vs. truth, empty vs. full.

To see this void as blankness or darkness only is still operating within this binary reality. To move beyond the space of disillusionment, there needs to be an understanding that things are false and true simultaneously, and that something can be empty and full, true and false simultaneously.

The path of the hermit leads to the discovery of the black sun, a movement so far into the darkness that the light of self (and the world) is discovered.

What it takes to discover this is to simply turn around. To turn away from the pained aspects of self that have arrived at another shore, only to continually look back at the shore where we originally voyaged from. To turn towards what lies ahead, and within.

This pattern can allow for a recognition of divine pulsation, of divine creative principle. The dark void continually birthing things anew. To be in this space allows for us to create in concert with flow, with divinity, without obscuring elements (what others think we need to be, garnering their approval, our beliefs and traumas and their limitations). 

It is quite easy to get immersed in darkness, in the sort of loss of meaning that many of us are currently suffering through.

To recognize it as a time of re-ordering, a potent time for magic and spirit to flow through (without those layers of reality that are typically present offering a net or filter for this), can allow for us to look towards our world as well as within with the type of clarity that we might not otherwise be offered.

To see that in this time that collective pain patterns, huge wounds regarding repressed anger, pain, and injustice have the opportunity to rise to the surface. Although uncomfortable, the rising to the surface of wounding patterns, both personally and collectively, are what is needed to not only acknowledge and heal, but also to allow for our conditioned layers of reality to reweave and reorganize around what will hopefully be a more fair, evolved, and aware world.

Leaps forward in evolution and consciousness require being birthed anew. The larger the birth, the greater the pause or time between the death of the old and the birth of the new, is needed.

Such pauses are fertile ground for us to reassess what individually matters to us, and what we wish to birth individually and collectively.

If you are having difficulty during this time, know that you are not alone. That this is a potent time for work, but it is also a potent time for self-acknowledgment. To recognize that we are impacted by forces much larger than ourselves, and that we only have so much control and certainty in our world.

One of the basic teachings that I offer people is discernment. To recognize when things may be coming from their personal sphere or when it is coming from a much larger sphere of influence. When something is coming from a much larger sphere of influence (like world energies, or energies of the US), our attempts to control will prove futile. We will be subsumed by the wave of such massive energies when we attempt to control them. 

To recognize the layers of reality is to recognize when they are reordering, and to recognize that on days that we are subsumed by the waves to not force ourselves to do things beyond what is needed to be done. Often we force ourselves into doing out of necessity. But we can also force ourselves into doing because we prize a culture of doing– it is what society and pop culture tells us we should be doing with our time. You do not need to become a champion bread maker or start three new businesses or finish a novel during the pandemic.

Simply riding the waves of the day may be energetically depleting, and the emotional and spiritual labor that is required during these times (or any time during spiritual awakening) is significant labor.

Reminding ourselves of this– even if we cannot see a materialist output as a result of our efforts– is really helpful so we do not judge or demean ourselves during times where we may feel subsumed by the largeness of reality.

To acknowledge these larger forces of reality can allow for us to see things clearly. To allow for ourselves to not feed into illusions and myths regarding control (either personal or outer conspiracy theories) that are prevalent and reached for during times of doubt. To accept that the order of our world is illusory, and that chaos and flow are the underlying reality, and to allow ourselves to follow this flow, instead of attempting to force.

It is through the acceptance of flow and its chaos and ever-changing nature that we can allow ourselves to see ourselves, and reality, as more than static creatures. To see that we are capable of such incredible change, of such incredible beauty, but often we are stuck in patterns of pain and restriction because we know that reality, and view changes in our reality as threat. We may also simply not be aware that what we know to be true or the way that we view reality and ourselves can change, and can do so for the better.

No matter who we are, or how aware we are, we always have the opportunity to view ourselves and our reality differently. Viewing it from a place of accepting flow, of recognizing that things are impermanent and always changing, and acting from that place of flow, can allow for us to navigate our lives much differently than we once did.

The path of the hermit, the movement out of the cave into the bright shining sun of reality, can allow for us to rejoin humanity, to bring that creative principle, that flow, into our lives and the lives of others. To be embodied again in our lives and world. Connected in a way that the necessary separation and observation of the hermit does not allow for.

The path of the hermit, the recognition of reality being false, can be followed by recognizing that that reality is on a certain level an illusion. It can then lead to the awareness that on many other levels our bodies, our lives, our senses, are precious gifts, and the beauty and joy of them. The reintegration of the mind with the heart, and the awareness of the world being both very false and true simultaneously.

Mary Mueller Shutan is an author and spiritual teacher. Her books include The Spiritual Awakening Guide, The Shamanic Workbook 1, and Working with Kundalini