Spiritual Elitism

Milfoil

Correct me if I am wrong but I think that Buddhists also have something similar which refers to this called 'beginners mind' where the seemingly naieve or basic questions of those new to Buddhism bring new teaching and awareness to those who have studied for many years. Learning to look back and remember that no matter how much we have learned we know so very little and that the freshness and mental freedom of youth are important. This is a regular practice in Buddhism and clearly one which many other spiritual traditions recognise as necessary too.
 

Briar Rose

Milfoil, that's right. My massage therapist is a Buddhist and what you wrote is what he told me.
 

Sophie-David

Yes, I think Zen in particular focuses on the simple question and the unartificed answer, both of which cut through the crap and achieve truth.

Role playing is certainly extremely useful in relativizing the ego, helping one to see how it functions, and thus achieving a healthy distance from it. Ego is rightly used as in instrument of integration within dualism, a potentially very useful paradigm as long as it is directed by the Self, rather than acting autonomously.

If you rephrase my signature line,
Know that you are - already - the Christ, the Bodhisattva. By your great love the One became Many, as with delight and joy you assumed the cloak of duality. Form is made of but three things: energy, change, and love.
in this way:
Know that I am - already - the Christ, the Bodhisattva. By my great love the One became Many, as with delight and joy I assumed the cloak of duality. Form is made of but three things: energy, change, and love.
suddenly it sounds very egoic doesn't it? At least that is what the ego would like us to think, for its true fear is actual and unlimited expansion. Not the false expansion that it puffs itself up with to avoid dealing with its issues. Because that Christ or Bodhisattva identity, that godhead within, is the utter death of ego - the perfect humility that assumes unlimited, profound, and ecstatic states of compassion. The ego certainly doesn't want to go there!

And so the ego deludes us into thinking that no, we are not god. But yet it does its best to play that god role in as unconvincing, unloving and arbitrary a manner as possible. So ego becomes yet more smoke and mirrors in the way of discovering what is real about us, more superficiality that tries to cloy our senses and prevent the discovery of our own essence. Like so many things, the substitute - whether pornography, or drugs, or enthusiasms, or depressions, or cheap foods, or vicarious art, or spectator sport - completely obscures the very treasure that is tries to emulate. Instead of being god within, we act like God within, and so the concept of god loses all credibility.
 

satine

Sophie-David said:
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.

Amen. And... as if we don't undermine ourselves enough (as you've described), the ego of "masters" can likewise seek to inhibit or squelch the "voice" of others who are (for a variety of logical reasons that feed the master's ego) perceived to be inadequate while also preaching the value of intuition and a "knowing" that transcends study and experience. Oxymoron.
 

satine

Milfoil said:
Correct me if I am wrong but I think that Buddhists also have something similar which refers to this called 'beginners mind' where the seemingly naieve or basic questions of those new to Buddhism bring new teaching and awareness to those who have studied for many years. Learning to look back and remember that no matter how much we have learned we know so very little and that the freshness and mental freedom of youth are important. This is a regular practice in Buddhism and clearly one which many other spiritual traditions recognise as necessary too.

Very wise. :)
 

Sophie-David

satine said:
Amen. And... as if we don't undermine ourselves enough (as you've described), the ego of "masters" can likewise seek to inhibit or squelch the "voice" of others who are (for a variety of logical reasons that feed the master's ego) perceived to be inadequate while also preaching the value of intuition and a "knowing" that transcends study and experience. Oxymoron.
At one point I was involved in the Christian charismatic movement, and experienced this illogicality first hand. We were encouraged to hear or "know" spirit as you describe. But we were also taught that we could not trust this individual hearing, it had to be brought to the group for verification. Can you imagine the absurdity of needing to have one's intuition pass a committee to be properly authorized? After not too much of this, self-doubt ensured that I could no longer hear anything. It was such a relief when I reluctantly took up the Tarot and learned to trust my intuition again.

I had a further thought about ego yesterday. When ego starts to puff itself up about spiritual accomplishments, all I really have to do is point out to it is that they were accomplished only when ego got out of the way. In fact, when ego dies on behalf of the Self, that is the greatest gift that it can give. If ego can take any credit at all, it is purely in that courage, often done in desperation, to sacrifice itself for the whole. So I will give ego due credit for that, in recent years it has learned to die very well.

For me that is the central truth of the Christian story, and there are parallels in almost every culture, because it is a truth that arises from the collective unconscious - spirit or soul if you will. We see Jesus as the anti-hero, the "king" or leader at the egoic centre, sacrifice himself and take a journey into the underworld. Through this never ending story, it is intended that the ego should willingly permit its death so that it shall arise anew, having integrated further pieces of the whole from within those discarded riches of the depths, gradually becoming bigger and bigger in the inclusive and unitive sense of egoic expansion. Thus growth is intended as a cycle of descent and ascent, which only the ego can prevent, and only the ego can allow.

This is the positive and true sense of egoic expansion, this greater and greater inclusivity or individuation. Of course it is the opposite of the superficial and typical response of the ego to the threat of change and growth, that puffed up self-righteous imitation of godliness and goodness that Jesus himself is depicted as so vehemently criticising. If you look at the actual words of Jesus, most likely passed down by oral tradition, there is really no other sin that he identifies but this primary sin of the ego, that it itself claims to be its own god, and so becomes the accomplished hypocrite. This of course guarantees the ego's irrevocably complete but painfully slow death, as it shrinks smaller and smaller into its own empty black hole.

In my own inner modeling, the inclusive expansion of the ego has been dreamt as the walls of the castle being burned down, the ego wandering apparently homeless, but in truth possessing and being possessed by the world. Or the waters of a lake expanding towards the ocean, victoriously flooding the barriers along the way. But first the prisoners of the dungeon must be set free...
 

Milfoil

Ah Sophie-David, its so good to see you back. :)

What you say is very true and I confess, I hadn't made those sorts of associations with my own dreams.

I started to wonder, whilst reading your post, what do we call the opposite of the ego?
 

Sophie-David

A Man's Home is His Castle

Milfoil said:
Ah Sophie-David, its so good to see you back. :)

What you say is very true and I confess, I hadn't made those sorts of associations with my own dreams.

I started to wonder, whilst reading your post, what do we call the opposite of the ego?
That is a very astute question Millie, perhaps more useful and interesting in the search than in the answer! :)

But my first impression is based on the thought that the ego is so small and finite, naturally a little island, or as I dreamed it, a medieval castle. So would not the opposite be the Universe (Card 21), the One that is the All: unitive consciousness, Self, god, anima mundi? That is the interesting thing with dualist concepts such as ego, that they reflect what may at first blush appears to be the same or analogous phenomena within the unitive domain. So the little one, the ego - the "little Emperor" as I have known him - is a pale reflection of what is in reality completely different, and indeed opposite. The Universe is also One, but where the ego is based on isolated protectionism within the finite, the One is characterized by inclusive abundance within the infinite. The ego possesses and controls, the One liberates and empowers. And where the ego is controlled and controls by fear, the One expresses unconditional and indiscriminant love.

Ah, but there's another characteristic answer, if I ask the question of the ego directly, "What is your opposite?" This is the dualist answer rather than unitive or transcendent. His answer, "What is not me is them. What is not I is other". His goal is to make the other "like me", to make the world in his image.

But there is a fatal flaw in his plan, by which he will never be satisfied, but in which there is hope. The very thing that he yearns for, the other, will never ever be like him. He will never be satisfied, whether in his mate, or his job, or his possessions. For if he succeeds in controlling and confining the other so much that it appears like him, it will become sterile and unsatisfying. Thus he will vainly attempt to possess and consume yet more and greater until it appears that there is nothing left for him, a king in an empty castle.

But suppress it though he might, he secretly knows that the other still exists, and this haunts him with unfulfillable yearning. If by some miracle he gives but a little of himself over to that other, then begins his undoing. And if this surrender becomes regular, even habitual, then quite contrary to his instinctual but ineffective attempts at domination and control, the other appears to rush in and consume him. But finally he discovers that all along, the other was already inside him, indeed as much inside him as outside of him. The union he has vainly sought, in completely the wrong direction, becomes his after all. But really this union is no longer his but ours, and the whole fiction of the castle collapses around him.

Lately in my vocal practice I am working on a song by Sting, all about ego. I am certainly not the only man to have dreamt of his ego as a castle:
Fortress Around Your Heart

Under the ruins of a walled city
Crumbling towers in beams of yellow light
No flags of truce, no cries of pity
The siege guns had been pounding through the night
It took a day to build the city
We walked through its streets in the afternoon
As I returned across the fields I'd known
I recognised the walls that I once made
I had to stop in my tracks for fear
Of walking on the mines I'd laid
And if I've built this fortress around your heart
Encircled you in trenches and barbed wire
Then let me build a bridge
For I cannot fill the chasm
And let me set the battlements on fire

Then I went off to fight some battle
That I'd invented inside my head
Away so long for years and years
You probably thought, or even wished that I was dead
While the armies all are sleeping
Beneath the tattered flag we'd made
I had to stop in my tracks for fear
Of walking on the mines I'd laid

And if I've built this fortress around your heart
Encircled you in trenches and barbed wire
Then let me build a bridge
For I cannot fill the chasm
And let me set the battlements on fire

This prison has now become your home
A sentence you seem prepared to pay
It took a day to build the city
We walked through its streets in the afternoon
As I returned across the lands I'd known
I recognised the fields where I'd once played
I had to stop in my tracks for fear
Of walking on the mines I'd laid

And if I've built this fortress around your heart
Encircled you in trenches and barbed wire
Then let me build a bridge
For I cannot fill the chasm
And let me set the battlements on fire
 

goddessof1967

I almost began dating a guy who suffers from 'spiritual elitism'. After a conversation with him I got a really bad gut feeling though I tried to put it down to nerves or something. A couple of conversations later I realised he was ill - ill with spiritual elitism. I think that a characteristic of real SE comes the inability to recognise one's own elitist tendencies.

He was so egotistical that after only 2 years of exploring spiritualism which included reading books like 'Seat of the Soul' and 'Heart of the Soul' he felt that he was qualified enough to start writing his own book - which he is in the middle of now. That'll be a blockbuster - not! He offered to put me in touch with 'people' but I just let that slip to the keeper.

He also told me he was 'rooly, a very good' Tarot reader. When I asked him which deck he used and talked about mine, he got lost pretty quickly. Mmmm.....I have no doubt he reads but just has no real extended knowledge, I think.

He couldn't tell me enough of how 'spiritual' he is, very intuitive and even psychic. Though on a number of occasions he showed true evidence of no compassion at all.

Lucky it fizzled quickly and I think he also sensed something in me like 'bullsh*t detector' :laugh:
 

Milfoil

Sophie-David said:
. . . But there is a fatal flaw in his plan, by which he will never be satisfied, but in which there is hope. The very thing that he yearns for, the other, will never ever be like him. He will never be satisfied, whether in his mate, or his job, or his possessions. For if he succeeds in controlling and confining the other so much that it appears like him, it will become sterile and unsatisfying. Thus he will vainly attempt to possess and consume yet more and greater until it appears that there is nothing left for him, a king in an empty castle.

This is very true and in a literal way too, we see this played out consistently through OCD sufferers and other controlling personality types esp via domestic violence.

Thinking about this, I mused over the ego and the alter-ego but there we simply have two distinct flavours of the same entity. Like love and hate, neither are opposites (dispite first appearances) but rather flavours of the same strong emotion. If love has an opposite, I guess it may well be fear (Freud certainly thought so). So if fear is our ego's favourite meal then love must be the food of our 'universal being'.

Perhaps the biggest lesson we have to attempt to learn and experience here on earth is to find the balance between the two?