Engaging in spirituality for very human reasons

For most of us who are into spirituality, very human motivation sometimes play a part.

We may find ourselves using our spirituality to improve our image or for virtue signaling, or to help our self-esteem by feeling better than others, and so on.

It’s very understandable and human, and there is nothing inherently wrong in it (although it’s painful). And it’s good to notice, acknowledge, and even explore.

I am personally noticing this right now since I lost most of my books (an extensive library of books from all spiritual traditions) in a divorce a few years back, and am now making mental and digital notes of which books I would like to get back to rebuild my library. I have also been to bookstores in Berkely the last couple of days browsing the spirituality shelves.

And I find myself asking myself why I want these books back. Is it because I want a certain image for myself? Because I want others to see me a certain way? Do I want some acknowledgment that I am smart and have some knowledge of the different spiritual traditions? Is it because I actually want to read them (again)? Is it because I want to be able to lend my favorites to others? Or that I may write a book myself in the future and would like some of these as references?

For each book, the mix of answers seem a little bit different. Much of the time, it may be more about image. And sometimes it seems it’s about something else. When the former is the case, thinking about buying the book feels like a burden and makes me feel confused and heavy. When something else is there – a deeper affinity for the book or that it may actually be useful in the future  – I feel more light, clear, and alive. So far, the proportion is probably 10 to 1 or even 20 to 1.

If anyone is curious, I notice it’s the more essential books that makes me feel more clear and alive, and mostly those by contemporary authors. For instance any book by Adyashanti and Byron Katie, the more central books by Ken Wilber, AH Almaas (Hamed Ali), and Pema Chödrön, and also books by similar authors such as Bonnie Greenwell and Stephan Bodian. And, of course, the old classics for me such as Jung and Jes Bertelsen.


Initial notes…

  • Spiritual materialism
    • engage in spirituality
      • to improve image, self esteem etc.
      • virtue signalling
    • is a part of it, sometimes, for most of us, and helpful to notice in ourselves
    • acknowledge, and can even explore
    • very understandable and human, nothing inherently wrong with it but good to notice
    • ….

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