Spirituality and the dream of the ego

 

Religion and spirituality serve different functions for different people, such as social control, a source of ethics, a sense of community, guidance, solace, or tools for spiritual practice.

One thing is quite striking: The public side of most religions and most forms of spirituality reflect the dream of the ego. They often offer or promise a life that’s just what we think we want lasting forever (heaven, Enlightenment, Nirvana, Valhalla). The term ego here refers to what happens when a thought is take as true, such as I need to be happy, I need to control my life, I need to know my future will be as I want it. It’s confused love, and innocent.

There may be many reasons for presenting this version. The people promoting it may want it for themselves and others, out of confused love. It may be a hook to get people interested and involved. They may give people what they think they want.

This is also found in more intentional spiritual practice. Traditions and teachers may offer a Sunday school version of the path and what it involves. They may talk in absolutes (complete, lasting) and present things in black-and-white. They may talk as if a state, insight, recognition or shift is permanent, as if they know the future and anything is stable. They may leave out that it may be a messy and confusing process, or the details of how it may look. They forget to mention the possibility of dark nights, and not knowing in advance how dark it may be. They may make it sound as if there is a single shift and everything is easy and fine after that. They may not mention the ongoing process of healing, maturing and realignment of the human self in the world, and how whatever is not aligned with reality (wounds, fears, confusion, beliefs) tends to surface so it can align more consciously with reality. They may leave out that it can always be more clear.

There may be many reasons for this as well. Some teachers may not want to scare people away. They may conform to a traditional way of presenting it, which deals in absolutes and sanitized presentations. The specific teacher may not have explored or gone through this him- or herself. They may think it’s better to mention it in private when or if it happens for any one student. They may not want to set up expectations for something that may not happen.

As so many others these days, I cannot help thinking that presenting an intentionally sanitized version is doing people a disservice. The ones who are sincerely drawn to it will do it anyway, because there is no real choice. Some who are less committed may leave, which is not a problem since there are so many other approaches out there. It provides a more realistic map for students. It gives a sense of transparency and honesty which invites trust. And it may be a great relief for teachers to be honest and open about it, not feeling they need to censor or leave anything out.

And if this is taken on as a belief, I notice it feels uncomfortable and a bit “off”. It seems more attractive to look at any stressful thoughts I see around this, in both directions, and find more clarity that way.

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– religion and spirituality, many different functions/aims (social order, comfort, stepping stone etc.)
– often, the dream of the ego (eternal bliss, salvation, wishful thinking etc.)
– sometimes, more real, honest (dark night etc.)

– often, gives a sunday school picture of the process, a glossy sanitized version
– a few offers the gory details (Adyashanti)
– some reasons: haven’t gone through it themselves, don’t want to scare people off, only a few do go through it (in this life)

……..

draft….

Religion and spirituality may serve many different functions, such as social control, comfort, providing practical tools, serving as a stepping stone and so on.

Often, their messages and teachings reflect the dream of the ego, a wish for life to be just as I want forever – eternal bliss, salvation, enlightenment, nirvana.

Even Buddhism and other traditions that offer practical tools and practical experience may offer a glossy Sunday school version of the path and what it involves.

And some are more honest and open about the messy and dark parts of the process, that it’s not as black-or-white as it’s sometimes presented, and that it’s not about fulfilling the dream of the ego.

Why do some traditions and teachers offer a sanitized Sunday school version of the path? There may be several reasons: The teachers haven’t gone through the messy parts for themselves. They don’t want to scare people off. And it may not be all that messy and dark for everyone, so why set it up as an expectation.

……..

draft 2…..

Religion and spirituality serve different functions for different people, such as social control, a source of ethics, a sense of community, guidance, solace, or tools for spiritual practice.

One thing is quite striking: The public side of most religions and most forms of spirituality reflect the dream of the ego. They often offer or promise a life that’s just what we want when we believe certain basic thoughts, a life of happiness and whatever else we (think we) seek that’s forever (heaven, Enlightenment, Nirvana, Valhalla). The ego here, of course, just means what happens when a thought is take as true, such as I need to be happy, I need to control my life, I need to know my future will be as I want it. It’s confused love, and innocent confusion.

There may be many reasons for presenting this version. The people promoting it may want it for themselves and others, out of confused love. It may be a hook to get people interested and involved. They may give people what they think they want.

I also notice that this sometimes happens even when it comes to more intentional spiritual practice. Traditions and teachers may offer a glossy Sunday school version of the path and what it involves. They may talk in absolutes and present things in black-and-white. They may talk as if a state, insight, recognition or shift is permanent, as if they know the future and anything is stable. They may leave out that it may be a messy and confusing process. They forget to mention the possibility of dark nights, and not knowing in advance how dark it may be. They may make it sound as if there is a single shift and everything is easy and fine after that. They may not mention the ongoing process of healing, maturing and realignment of the human self in the world, and how whatever is not aligned with reality (wounds, fears, confusion, beliefs) tends to surface so it can align more consciously with reality.

There may be many reasons for this as well. Some teachers may not want to scare people away. They may conform to a traditional way of presenting it, which deals in absolutes and sanitized presentations. The specific teacher may not have explored or gone through this him- or herself. They may think it’s better to mention it in private when or if it happens for any one student. They may not want to set up expectations for something that may not happen.

As so many others these days, I cannot help thinking that presenting an intentionally sanitized version is doing people a disservice. The ones who are sincerely drawn to it will do it anyway, because there is no real choice. Some who are less committed may leave, which is not a problem since there are so many other approaches out there. It provides a more realistic map for students. It gives a sense of transparency and honesty which invites trust. And it may be a great relief for teachers to be honest and open about it, not feeling they need to censor or leave anything out.

And as with anything, if this is taken on as a belief, it feels uncomfortable and a bit “off”. It seems more attractive to look at any stressful thoughts I see around this, in both directions, and find more clarity that way.

 

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2 thoughts on “Spirituality and the dream of the ego

  1. Thank you 🙂
    This reminds me of a few things…the shock felt when sincerely beginning to follow a spiritual path, and soon after feeling as if ‘everything was falling apart’ and also knowing somehow there was no way back. At the time I wasn’t aware that this is a ‘normal’ part of the process, and there was a lot of fear and harsh self judgement around it. It may have helped to have known the possibility of this in advance, and I also see this was a way for me to experience how this ego works.
    After The Work found me, and I had attended my first School, I had a practical ‘human’ sense of support from both TW and the family of TW, which has helped. And I can ask the Universe for help, and to help me help me
    Two Katie quotes come to mind here: “I don’t call it ‘The Work’ for nothing” and “do you really want to know the truth?” 🙂 ;along with a trust that TW will meet any situation, and that my evolution is none of my business – I don’t need to force anything or pretend/project myself beyond or behind my evolution (and I can question any thoughts that may cause me to do this).

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