Tuesday, May 22, 2012

ILLUSIONS: The Adventures of a Reluctant Messiah [review]

“What if somebody came along who was really good at this, who could teach me how the world works? If a Buddha or Jesus came to our time and landed in the same meadow with me, what would he say, what would he be like?” asks Richard Bach in his foreword to Illusions. Here he meets the mysterious ex-Savior Donald Shimoda, now flying around passengers on his biplane for a living, same job as his.

Ex-Messiah. Donald just decided to quit. He didn't like the crowds starting to praise him. He still can do miracles, though. His shadow passes over dead bugs and they fly away alive. He can walk on water, swim on soil, walk through walls. He can see the future but tries not to think of it. He's lived in many lifetimes here, in other worlds, and in different dimensions. He's been a wanderer lately.

“Stay in one place too long and people knew I was something strange. Brush against my sleeve, you're healed of terminal cancer, and before the week's over the crowd's there again. This airplane keeps me moving, and nobody knows where I came from or where I'm going next, which suits me pretty well.” He once walked off a crowd to the sea, and then disappeared.

He teases Richard with magic tricks at first. Richard wonders if Masters receive formal training or practice. Donald hands him the Messiah's Handbook & Reminders for the Advanced Soul, filled with epigrams.

Learning is finding out what you already know. Doing is demonstrating that you know it. Teaching is reminding others that they know just as well as you. You are all learners, doers, teachers. Your only obligation in any lifetime is to be true to yourself.  Being true to anyone or anything else is not only impossible, but the mark of the fake messiah.

Richard doesn't pray to him, they're just friends. Don quit because people only came to him for the miracles and not for his message. Don teaches him about life in unconventional means, even walks on the lake with him. He tells Richard that all of us are unrealized messiahs.

In the end, Don dies. He doesn’t come back from the dead, though visits Richard for the last time through a dream. Life isn't the same. The last page of the Messiah's handbook says: Everything in this book might be wrong.
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The whole book's message can be summed up by this short parable in the foreword:
Once there lived a village of creatures along the bottom of a great crystal river. The current of the river swept silently over them all--young and old, rich and poor, good and evil, the current going its own way, knowing only its own crystal self.

Each creature in its own manner clung tightly to the twigs and rocks of the river bottom, for clinging was their way of life, and resisting the current what each had learned from birth. But one creature said at last, "I am tired of clinging. Though I cannot see it with my eyes, I trust that the current knows where it is going. I shall let go, and let it take me where it will. Clinging, I shall die of boredom."

The other creatures laughed and said, "Fool! Let go, and that current you worship will throw you tumbled and smashed across the rocks and you will die quicker than boredom!" But the one heeded them not, and taking a breath did let go, and at once was tumbled and smashed by the current across the rocks.

Yet in time, as the creature refused to cling again, the current lifted him free from the bottom, and he was bruised and hurt no more. And the creatures downstream, to whom he was a stranger, cried, "See a miracle! A creature like ourselves, yet he flies! See the Messiah, come to save us all!"

And the one carried in the current said, "I am no more Messiah than you. The river delights to lift us free, if only we dare let go. Our true work is this voyage, this adventure." But they cried the more, "Savior!" all the while clinging to the rocks, and when they looked again he was gone, and they were left alone making legends of a Savior.
© Richard Bach)

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