Spiritual Elitism


I found a really interesting article in this month's Oracle 20/20 Magazine, called "Spiritual Etiquette in the World: The Trap of Spiritual Knowledge and Sophistication," by Suzanne Matthiessen. Some of you might've already read it. It's about the ego challenges associated with reaching a high level of accomplishment in areas such as tarot-reading. Within this process and even as it seems that layers of the ego are being shed, a paradox can emerge in which the ego takes credit for this new level of spiritual awakening, resulting in "smugness and a whole new slew of blind spots that are even more difficult to acknowledge than the first ones we've transcended."

One of these potential blind spots is feeling somehow "above" other humans so that even our compassion, generosity and kindness are rooted in condescension or pity. Another interesting blind spot is feeling so sure about the "truth" that one has discovered, that one's beliefs are imposed upon others. Matthiessen says, "Our spiritual knowledge and sophistication turns into just another flavor of fevered fundamentalism if we attack others' positions with so much venom and self-righteousness that we dig a deeper moat between our fellow human beings and ourselves." Another meaningful quote: "Teachers of all levels can find themselves in quicksand fairly easily if they become enthralled by admiration and praise for what they project is their degree of spiritual knowledge and sophistication... These are the folks who are often teaching what they still need to learn, but will deny it."

This is definitely an important and relevant (even to this forum) topic, worthy of some thought and exploration, if not discussion. I don't think I'm allowed to put the link here, but if any of you would want the entire article, I'd be glad to share it with you. :)



Very interesting viewpoint, thank you for bringing it to my attention. I know I'm guilty. I'm a teacher at heart I think, so when I see newbie posts that I might be able to help with I know rather than offering one way, I offer the only way...at least as I see it that particular day.

I look in my rear view mirror and see my progress, forgetting to look out the front and see how far I have to go.


satine, thank you for your posting on this article. i have never heard of the magazine before, and just googled it, to find that the magazine is also online, and you can read the article that way. I have yet to read through the whole article, but wanted to thank you for sharing this. I'm going to check out some other articles in this magazine, and it may be one magazine that I end up asking Santa to give to me. looks very interesting!

btw-i do also agree with what you mention is covered in that article. i have experienced it myself with teachers and sure i'm also guilty of it myself. we forget that tarot and other things too, is a life time learning experience that no one truly masters. there is always another lesson to be learned with it. i love how AJ put it-

AJ said:
I look in my rear view mirror and see my progress, forgetting to look out the front and see how far I have to go.


In Tantra, they teach much the same... each new awareness and gift (or ability) can bring the ego a new challenge to overcome.

I think the only true way (for me anyhow) to overcome these ego challenges is to remain firmly grounded in compassion, for myself and for others. Compassion and not pity, a careful line to draw.

And also, to realize that the only thing worth striving for is "that which is in my/his/her Highest Good." I find that working and phrasing "toward the Highest Good" takes egotistical and subjective personal observations out of play and allows us to work to manifest that which is spiritually sound in ours (and others') lives.


Here is the article, in .pdf format.


  • SpiritualMaturity.pdf
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I know that when I read I make a conscious effort to take my ego and pre-judgments out of the picture, but suspect that to do that fully takes more spiritual awareness than most of us ever achieve... or that I ever will, anyway. Good point to stay aware and keep fighting it though.

Briar Rose

A few years ago I met a massage therapist that told me to be careful about this. And I am.

The more I learn, the more I don't know! There is so much information out there, and keeping open to it, the more I will learn.

There'a certain satisfaction I get from seeing truths unfold from a reading I did. I suppose that is human nature to get a natural high from it. However, I try to grasp that I am just a conduit~ I didn't make anything happen.

This grounds me.


celticnoodle said:
we forget that tarot and other things too, is a life time learning experience that no one truly masters. there is always another lesson to be learned

I think that is a key phrase and nicely put CN. You can't just pick up a deck and after a few weeks or months expect to have mastered the deck to a point that you are (can't use the term Zen here), but a Tarot master both in the cards and spiritually. It takes time, study, and practice. Much like playing the piano, or singing, it takes constant study practice. There is always something new under the sun. And isn't that what makes life so interesting??



What a wonderful article, thank you for bringing it to our attention satine, and for posting it Marion! I don't come here often, but when I do it is always clear why “I” have chosen that particular moment - consciousness knows so much more than ego doesn't it?

Yes, I have felt that hostile egoic spiritualism in some new age shops as much as in some churches - its palpable and prickly when it happens, and a good time to escape in whatever way necessary. In myself, I accept the ego as a fact of life, but basically try to work around it, acknowledging its influence and foibles with some humour and compassion. There's nothing worse than worrying about it, because that just gives the ego power. Just love it as you would a silly puppy dog!

In fact I perceive more damage done by the ego through its conservative deflation of transcendent ideals, practices and behaviours, its clinging to the old and finite in the face of limitless possibility. This egotism disguises itself as humility, becoming a betrayer of our true natures, confining and enslaving us within a well defined and contained material box, like the true Saturn that it is.

So while I agree with Suzanne in principle, I personally see more danger in the ego's limiting affect, that force which tears down, gives up, and does nothing, making us feel inadequate, artless, and useless. I hear the ego saying, in both the world and the "myself" part of it, that I have nothing new to contribute, no purpose, no mission, no validity. As the betrayer, usurper, and saboteur of the force of creative love and passion, this is where the untempered ego does his and her greatest disservice.


It helps to have agood sense of humour about oneself.

If in group work another method is to swap roles. Eg. in one series of our Rites of Eleusis, when we were starting with the Rite of Saturn, a new elderly member of Neophyte grade was being considered to be cast as Saturn. He said he wasn't too keen, gave a lot of (surface) reasons why, but I detected something else. He fessed up that he felt really uncomfortible being up on the throne in the rite as my role was extremely subservient to him in the rite. He felt uncomfortible up on the throne while his initiator bowed and grovelled before him. (One must realise that all these roles and actions are for a REASON in these rites). That was it. I insisted he wwould play Saturn and I would play the sub-servient role. The Rite went off!

I have heard that some people running groups that do these Rites always take the God-form in each one, ie. Jupiter, Mars. Apollo, etc. ... hmmmm makes one wonder?