In the lesser spiritual circles, the Ego is the Elephant in the living room that no one mentions. This well-used phrase is an apt metaphor for a condition regarding a presence that seekers are either unaware of, or choose to ignore. I use the term lesser to distinguish those weekend get-together groups, with good intentions (possibly), but no authority, from true sources of knowledge and assistance for you on the path to enlightenment. In my travels I find that most people are aware of the Ego whether in themselves or in others and, to the extent that they are involved in relationships in their life, they are appropriately vexed by it. Unfortunately for them, the uninitiated see the Ego as themselves rather than as part of their personality; spending a good deal of time in self-reproach when in fact they might learn to love who they are and seek to regain command of themselves from their rampant cohort.
Meaning well is a start and those who use their leadership skills to bring people together should be commended. The curriculum is the problem. Best that these groups discuss needlepoint or even politics rather than expose themselves to karmic liability of the most heinous sort, one-upping each other with absurd recounts of their boorish attempts at meditation or divination; or worse yet explaining to each other how and why the world will end soon. Seemingly innocuous, some self-appointed weekend spiritual types create curriculums that are based on feeling good and, for the most part, the group spends their time with nice music, useless ( even damaging) guided meditations, lectures on ridiculous “esoteric” knowledge, gleaned from the internet, based on no personal knowledge or experience, only a sense that the information “feels good” or “sounds right.”
If I had to classify these groups and their ability to take responsibility for a person’s spiritual development I would say there are at least three types: those that think they know, those that don’t know and are aware of that fact, and those that know the true path of the individual. Those that know I will call “Orders” and those that think they know I will call “Dis-Orders” and those that don’t know and are aware of that fact, I will call “Seekers.”
I chose the title of this series of blog posts to highlight the Ego in our daily lives and the important role it plays in our spiritual advancement or lack thereof. The Ego is the turd in the punch bowl so to speak. It’s presence may be necessary at times but it always stinks up the place; always. The best we can do is know ourselves and the Ego so we can make decisions using our given faculties and not the Ego’s short, quick, biased, reactive jump-to-conclusions approach. The Ego is always there, ready to go when you are not wiling or able. Our job is to grow up, in all ways, physically, emotionally, cognitively, and take the controls from the Ego.
This essential step to spiritual advancement may seem mundane, almost like a part of growing up which, if we had a good childhood, we might be inclined to take for granted; thinking perhaps that it just must have happened because we made it through puberty. It happens in many ways, most of which can be described as “having to do things we don’t want to do.” The problem is though, that those forces that direct us to do these things, such as get up in the morning, do our homework, go to work etc. are outside of ourselves; we subvert one aspect of the Ego to get these things done using other aspects of the Ego, namely fear or the need for approval.
Where does one learn how to do this? It just happens…or not; if one’s parents had the knowledge and desire to pass this on or if there was spiritual or religious training or, if a teacher or two were able to enlighten you. More likely though, we may have to get to work in our adult life because we were not given ample instruction about the importance of this project. Robert Bly complained of the Sibling Society and rightfully so; however, the solution is not some ambiguous set of manners or experiences, it is for the individuals to move into a position of taking control of their lives and relegating the Ego to as minor a position as possible. The less the Ego intrudes on our behavior the better. If the Ego never appears unless explicitly called on (that is, never allowed to react unchecked), one would be enlightened, if disciplined, or perhaps insane if not.