Thoughts on Richard Bach’s “Illusions”

It was thought-provoking for sure, but for a fairly large portion of it, especially the latter half, I had an almost nauseous feeling in the pit of my stomach, a sort of ache, and I know what that feeling is— the feeling of something offending my soul. I was fully prepared to dismiss it as an atheist’s work, but one sentence near the end saved it for me: “Everything in this book may be wrong.”

Good. Sick feelings gone. I can now analyze it more objectively. Below are some of the major points that stuck out to me:

1) Christ acceptance problems. The author’s issue not mine— I have no qualms in accepting that there is/was a true Messiah and a Son of God; the Son is part of the Trinity, which is the various manifestations of God. There is, to me, nothing wrong with the idea that God took human form to better relate to us. I don’t know why Bach seems to have such a problem with that. Why wouldn’t the idea of God experiencing life as one of us appeal to people?

2) I agree with the “follow your bliss” theme. I do believe we are meant to be happy and that God doesn’t want us to suffer, and that much suffering is brought about by our own doing; however, I do think there are some things that are simply beyond our control, which leads me to…

3) I have a problem with Bach’s total dismissal of the importance of material laws. To completely write off the importance of the body, physical laws, etc. is to completely discredit human experience, which I think is very important. Part of the reason our beings are encased in flesh is because we are meant to experience the physical; it’s here to help us learn. If, at our kindling, our souls were simply turned loose in the universe and told “Find the truth” it would be an incredibly daunting task, one we would probably never accomplish. Instead, we are put into a context, an anchored place in a single world, and told, “Use these tools to help you find the truth.” Our physical experience, our world, our interactions, help us find our way to the transcendent truth. I think it would be very hard to learn about the universe if we didn’t first have a place to contextualize ourselves. Kind of like how one teaches an elementary school student statistics by using M&Ms— start with something concrete and use that to help them see the broader universal meaning of that concrete. If we able to physically do anything and have everything we wanted, we would lose all of our context and opportunities for discovery, which then leads into…

4) If we could simply do whatever we wanted, everything would be meaningless. I already don’t enjoy reading as much because I’d often rather be writing entertaining stories for myself. Part of appreciating something comes from a measure of respect in recognizing something beyond oneself. If everyone could do everything, there would be no way or reason to respect one another; we’d all be exactly the same, and there would be no need for others to matter or exist at all. It’s like Bach is preaching spiritual communism. Another part of life is learning to help each other, and bond together in symbiotic relationships— the Body of Christ metaphor. We are all an individual, specialized part of a much larger whole. We’re not meant to do everything, if we were, there wouldn’t need to be so many of us.

4.a.) I also think that a lot of our joy in our work comes from the act of learning and practicing it. If I could just pick up my pencil and draw whatever I wanted whenever I wanted, it wouldn’t be nearly as much fun. If I made a masterpiece every time I sat down to paint, there wouldn’t be anything special about that masterpiece, and indeed I probably wouldn’t be motivated to paint anymore. We love and need challenges. To simply be perfect all the time (in our human existence) would be very boring and pointless and we’d get nothing out of the experience.

5) Bach also discounts the existence of evil, which I also disagree with. There’s a point in the book where the character Don says, “Nobody suffers or dies without their consent.” (This was during the point I was starting to feel physically sick from the amount of disgust this book was riling in me. When I read that statement, I literally went, “UGH!” in my chair.) There are people abused, sexually assaulted, brutally murdered every single day and NO WAY is that their choice or their fault. There is evil in this world, and it is not something we always bring upon ourselves. The fact that someone could even say otherwise makes me very angry.

5.a.)That goes back to there being some things we simply cannot control. I do NOT accept the notion that we are all gods in our own right. Absolutely not. To say we can do whatever we feel like whenever we want discounts the idea that there is meaning or order in anything and that there is a Plan for us and for the world, which I very much believe there is. We don’t get to decide that Plan, we must only fulfill our part of it. To insinuate that we write the Plan strikes me as incredibly arrogant.

6) Multiple lifetimes. I simply don’t believe it.*

7) There’s a point in the book where the character Don talks about how the “Is” isn’t concerned with us on Earth at all, is totally oblivious to our “games” here. I don’t believe that either— I believe God is very present in our lives and has a great interest and concern for what we do here. I have felt His hand and seen the effects of it far too many times to believe He is simply ignoring us.

8) Faith =/= imagination. Both are very important, but they are not the same. Christ Himself said that we can do anything with faith, and I believe that. I think we imagine what we want for ourselves, but it is faith that ultimately delivers it to us. Imagination is our creativity, which you already know I think is vitally important, but if I had to chose between having imagination or having faith, I would chose faith in a heartbeat. Faith is what sustains us and saves us. I can imagine a bright future for myself, of living on after death, but if I don’t have faith that it’s going to happen, it’s never going to.

So that’s my two cents feedback on the book. I think on the surface it sounds very nice, and there are plenty of things in it I agree with, but on the whole, I think a close examination of the ideas yields something I cannot accept into my beliefs about the world and the universe it hangs in. The line “everything in this book may be wrong” makes me wonder if perhaps that was the point of the book all along— to convey truth through a sort of reverse psychology.

*I’ve done a little thinking on the notion of reincarnation, and can’t accept it, at least not in the traditional sense of the word. I believe in something that’s sometimes called “genetic memory,” “racial memory,” or more simply “the collective unconscious,” with a little twist of my own, of course. Basically, while I don’t think I have lived before, I think contained in me (and in everyone) is a small part of all my ancestors. Whether that’s purely biological or not, I’m still not 100% sure, but one of the big “holes” in the strictly biological theory is that we wouldn’t be able to remember our ancestors’ experience past the point of them having children, and I disagree with that. Because, most of the time, we can still pick up on the later part of that person’s life from the passed down memories. That’s not to say there aren’t sometimes holes in the memory-chain, but I think generally it can be traced in fairly solid links. I also think we carry a certain spiritual connection to the spirits of our ancestors— not necessarily divine, as posited by some cultures (i.e. I don’t think we should be worshiping our ancestors)— a small measure of light from their soul contributes to the brightness ours.

So, that’s how I can accept the notion of past lives. I don’t think I, myself as the individual ME, have ever lived or existed before now, but all of the people it took to make me have lived in every age of this world from the Creation of Man, and I do carry, somewhere deep in the unconscious or the soul, all of their experiences and the things that they learned while they were here. And those things, I think, shape our lives in ways we’re not even aware of. I also think that’s a pretty comforting thought. I have a very wide range of people in my family— queens, horse thieves, doctors, pirates, railroad barons, poor farmers, clergymen, you name it— and it’s nice to think that ultimately, there’s probably very little in the world that I couldn’t handle deep down thanks to the lives they led. Life is cumulative, I suppose, in that respect.

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