What is spiritual ego? What part does it play in our spiritual growth? This special kind of ego involves the sense of pride or feeling of specialness a spiritual aspirant might begin to feel as he perceives himself to be attaining what he believes to be important and valuable spiritual knowledge.
For many seekers of spiritual awareness, this specific type of ego we attach to our spirituality, is borne in the first moment it is perceived that a rather profound spiritual realization has arisen. It is that part of self that feels it has accomplished something very special and it causes us to feel superior in relation to others because we believe we have attained something that sets us apart from the masses.
If we find ourselves at any point along the path of spiritual awareness and expanding consciousness, feeling that we’ve arrived, conquered or accomplished something spiritually superior, or special, and that this accomplishment puts us above others in any way, we can rest assured, we’ve activated the spiritual ego.
The type of ego often rears up within students and seekers intent upon increasing spiritual awareness, However, the ego associated with spirituality is also often alive and well in those whom you’d least expect to find it. Many spiritual teachers and gurus demonstrate a strong spiritual ego. For many of them, spiritual growth and inflated ego seem to go hand in hand. It certainly begs asking, what degree of spiritual awareness is there, if we're using our knowledge to hold ourselves apart, in specialness, from others?
Spiritual ego can be evidenced in those teachers of spirituality who allow their perceived knowledge to give them a sense of superiority or a feeling of being in a different category of human being than those whom they perceive to be living in delusion.
Any spiritual teacher who mocks or in any way demeans or shuns those who he perceives as being ‘unenlightened’ in comparison to himself, is undoubtedly demonstrating this special variant of ego. The fictitious character of the Jed McKenna series of books comes to mind here. For anyone familiar with Jed and his books, you’ll likely recall how he can barely stand to be in the company of those he deems as being ‘asleep.’
Shining the light on this form of ego that aligns itself with our spirituality can be difficult indeed as this aspect of self hides itself very well. By its very nature is it sly and deceitful, often evading our awareness as it has a way of hiding behind the spiritual beliefs themselves that we hold so dear.
A good indicator that this aspect of self may be at work is if we find ourselves holding on very tightly to those spiritual beliefs that we believe to be ‘true.’ Attachment to any belief is a sure sign that we are opposed to accepting the fact that we could actually be wrong or our truth could be incomplete.
I regularly remind myself to check within to ascertain whether or not my own spiritual ego has run amok. To do this, I use the process of self enquiry. Self enquiry is akin to taking a flashlight of awareness and shining it within to illuminate thought processes, beliefs and all inner workings of mind.
It involves taking the perspective of the silent witness or the observer within to dispassionately observe or ‘see’ the machinations of mind. Radical honesty is an important aspect of self enquiry. We must be willing to shine the light unwavering and sift through the contents of mind and thought with a fine toothed comb, fully admitting to ourselves what is revealed.
My own ego has reared its head many times, particularly when I find myself engaged in debate about the subject of spirituality and spiritual growth. If I find myself holding tightly to my own beliefs, defending my point of view and looking down on another in any way for holding a view I deem to be inferior, I can rest assured this aspect of self is currently very active. Often the remedy is simply in seeing and acknowledging this. The moment we engage in self enquiry and see our spiritual ego in operation, it is usually quelled right in that very moment, temporarily anyway.
What should we do about the Spiritual Ego?
If our goal is to completely eliminate the spiritual ego, we’ll likely find the task difficult, as that which we resist, persists. We’re far better off to simply see it for what it is, and to accept it. If we can understand where our need to feel special or superior comes from, what beliefs we’re harboring that contribute to this, then we’re at a definitive advantage in terms of unearthing the root of the spiritual ego. Self enquiry is an important tool for this.
Once this aspect of self is identified, the next step really is to try to understand it and beyond that to simply accept it. With acceptance, it will lose its hold and dissipate. So long as we remain aware of and accepting of all aspects of self, the spiritual ego included, they have little chance of running away with us. It really is about being aware, particularly about those aspects of self that we might prefer to keep hidden.
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