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Why was Donald Shimoda killed?


My copy of Illusions

Richard Bach’s novel, Illusions: The Adventures of a Reluctant Messiah, was an international bestseller in the late 1970s and early 1980s. It tells the story of Donald Shimoda who was supposed to be a messiah but gave up the mission with the permission of the Infinite Radiant who said to the reluctant messiah, “Not my will, but thine be done. For what is thy will is mine for thee. Go thy way as other men, and be thou happy on the earth.”

The fundamental message of the novel is just that: walk your own way and create your happiness. Only you can do that: walking your way and creating your own happiness. It is your duty to do that too.

This message is repeated like a motif in different words in the novel. “If God spoke directly to your face and said, ‘I COMMAND THAT YOU BE HAPPY IN THE WORLD, AS LONG AS YOU LIVE,’ what would you do then?” This question is put to the reader right at the beginning.

The messiah realises that his teachings and the miracles he performs are doing no good to the people. They want the miracles. But they won’t do what he wants them to do: discover their own ways and travel those happily. Each person has a unique way to travel.

It’s not easy to do that: travelling your way honestly. The world has created a few ways which are taught to be the right ways. We may call them Islam, Christianity, Hinduism, etc. Some of them may not be religious in appearance though they tend to be little else in practice: Marxism and its various avatars, for example. We are forced to follow one or more of these paths. The world expects that. Otherwise you’d be an outsider.

It's easy to follow the herd. When you choose to step out, you choose truth and hence hardships. You become an undesirable element that forces others directly or indirectly to face their own real selves.

Donald Shimoda walks his own path. He tries to avoid crossing the paths of others for various reasons, the chief of which being that he doesn’t want to do the job of the messiah for which he is sent on the earth. He chooses personal freedom instead. He knows that he can’t save the world anyway. He knows that the world will kill him one day, unable to bear his authenticity, and then worship him as a form of divinity. They won’t follow his teachings even then. They will worship him and pray for his miracles.

Is the man who abandons the mission of his life and follows his heart authentic? Someone accuses Donald of being fake. “Of course I’m a fake!” He says without batting an eyelid. “We’re all fakes on this whole world, we’re all pretending to be something that we’re not.”

Authentic existence: that’s what Donald Shimoda, the messiah who quit, demands. He was authentic. So he was shot dead by a person who followed one of the ways approved by the world.

PS. This post is a part of Blogchatter Half Marathon


  1. Hari OM
    Thank you for reminding me of this book (and I couldn't help but also recall Johnathan Livingston Seagull!) I devoured and redvoured these books in earlier years... I must reacquaint myself. YAM xx

    1. Jonathan Livingston Seagull is my regular reference in classes and speeches. Two of Bach's best books.

  2. Love the picture of the well-read copy! Sounds like an intriguing book. :) Thanks for the recco.

  3. //When you choose to step out, you choose truth and hence hardships.//
    When we read about the fate of Prigozhin, you write this.

  4. Ooh I should get around to reading this one now. Being authentic in any way requires courage ~

  5. ...too many people don't understand where happiness comes from. We each have to make it for ourselves. Have a happy week.


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