When exploring the terms spiritual ego, spiritual materialism or spiritual narcissism in articles and literature, they are almost always portrayed as a bad thing we want to avoid. The manipulating and abusive guru who has been hiding behind a mask of spirituality type of thing.
But a spiritual ego is not very different from a non-spiritual ego, and understanding it will give you great insights into how your ego morphs and re-invents itself to make sure you keep seeing yourself through its lens. Understanding the spiritual ego, embracing it, and moving on from it can be one of the most powerful steps you take on your transformational journey.
In this and the coming three episodes of the Uncover YOU podcast we will dive into the fascinating topic of the spiritual ego.
Keep reading, or listen to episode 11 of the Uncover YOU podcast here:
What is the spiritual ego?
The ego is the idea of “I”, who you believe yourself to be. It’s the sum of all the beliefs you carry about who you are – your personality, your worth, your abilities. A spiritual ego is a mind infused with spiritual ideas and beliefs. It’s the idea and identity of yourself as being spiritually evolved.
The set of beliefs in a spiritual ego might look more favorable than what you have previously thought yourself to be or believed in. Before you might have seen yourself as unworthy and less than. Now you believe yourself to be part of a whole and are experiencing feelings of gratitude and appreciation.
Together the spiritual beliefs make a blueprint, a concept of who you are and should be. How you believe the world works and what is good and bad. It’s the filter that you understand the world through, and interact with others from.
So basically a spiritual ego is doing what any ego-mind is already doing. Creating meaning and the idea of yourself from that meaning.
The difference, and what can make the spiritual ego a lil’ more tricky, is that you might think that you have OVERCOME the ego and are living your true altruistic self. You think you’re living from a better place because it seems better and you feel better, but it’s still the mind running the show.
The thing is that you are more than your ego. But as long as you’re identified with the mind you won’t see that. Like Carl Jung said in his book The Undiscovered Self:
“Anyone who has any ego-consciousness at all takes it for granted that he knows himself. But the ego knows only its own contents, not the unconscious and its contents.”
In other words, you can only see the content of the box you’re looking from. You can’t recognize yourself as something more than the mind WITH the mind.
The ego carries the idea of who you are, but it IS not you. It’s the filter, the film that the light of your consciousness is being projected through. You can have a spiritual filter, a successful entrepreneur filter, I’m a loser filter… and that filter will determine how you experience the world and yourself, as long as you’re identified with the filter.
(You might want to read this article on the Ego and what it is by Gary van Warmerdam if this topic interests you.)
When you learn to go beyond the mind (as we do in my meditation course with the name… Beyond the Mind) you learn to separate from the ego and its doings, to identify with the essence of YOU. The one who contains the mind and more parts of you.
To do this, it is most helpful to understand how the mind works and how a spiritual ego is created.
How the spiritual ego is created
You might ask yourself at this point: “I was doing so well, and my intention was so good. How did I get stuck in a spiritual ego identification?”
There you were. Committing to a spiritual journey and letting go of the ego. Taking the leap of faith. Wanting more for yourself. How come you ended up in the same ego-mind with a different set of beliefs?
That’s a fair question and an important one for further growth. What shows up in the way IS the way, huh, so let’s face what seems to be in the way dead on.
The ego-mind morphs and upgrades itself when the old idea of yourself is no longer fitting what you feel and believe. Having an awakening experience is disruptive to an old program of beliefs and a good example of a time when the ego needs upgrading to survive.
Let’s look at some scenarios of how the spiritual ego can be created, and understand it better:
1. The spiritual experience upgrade
Somewhere on your journey, you might have had a very real experience of yourself as something outside of the old idea of you. Something bigger than you. A love flowing out of your heart. A deep knowing beyond words. A feeling of connectedness and clarity you’d never experienced before.
An experience like that disrupts what we used to believe. It has a strong emotional impact and can unroot old belief structures. You find yourself outside of the old idea of yourself and with an inner knowing that other ways of living and being are possible.
2. Getting answers to everything you’ve wondered
You found understanding and community you before had been missing. Feeling that someone finally explained to you how your mind, love and the universe are working. The answers you had been looking for.
The pleasure in getting answers that satisfy your heart and soul has a profound shift in your sense of self. Now you find yourself being someone who actually has some answers. You have a truth to believe in and a model for navigating life that you can finally agree with.
3. Adding layers to your belief-cake
You’ve been focusing on replacing old beliefs with new, more comfortable ones, without learning how to actually remove the old ones. Adding a new program on top of the old one, adding more layers to the cake. You are trying to replace old beliefs by adding new ones. Without realizing that getting to the core of YOU happens when you take apart the old ideas of yourself and practice the skills to do so.
This way you’re more consciously programming your ego to upgrade itself (than in the first two scenarios above), but your old beliefs are still stuck in your unconscious. And the experience of yourself is still happening on an ego-mind level.
Upgrading: the ego survival mechanism
Whether you recognize yourself in any of these scenarios or have a different experience: If you’re still partly identified with the mind, it will get a hold of this new experience, create meaning from it and update the idea about who you are. Using this upgraded idea of who you are to reinforce the belief that you are your mind.
Our ego is sneaky. Smart. Built for surviving. It takes many forms, and it morphs with the new experiences you have in life. If the ego would stay in victim mood and suffering, while you move on to a new experience of yourself as someone who feels gratitude and acceptance, it would be totally obvious that you are NOT your ego.
“When illusion spins her net
I’m never where I want to be
And liberty she pirouette
When I think that I am free
– Peter Gabriel, Solsbury Hill lyrics
If your ego would have kept this old version, you would have felt apart from it. You might have noticed the gap. But since you feel more aligned with this new iteration of the idea of you it lulls you back to sleep.
Let’s look at the phenomenon of living from this state (as most of us do, most of our lives) from a different angle.
The divided self – how you’re leaking personal power
Another way of describing what’s happening when you develop a spiritual ego is to say that you moved from living in stuck energy in your lower energy centers – survival, fear, unworthiness, shame, victimhood, blame – took your moving truck and completely moved into your upper energy centers – vision, awareness, love, truth.
When you left your old hometown you never looked back and you want nothing to do with that old life. While it might seem smart to some parts – you don’t want the suffering and the victimhood anymore – what’s actually happening is this:
You’re suppressing your unconscious, your shadow self, and are living from an idea of your perfect, spiritual self. An idea where ideally only positive vibes exist. Love and light. Happy thoughts only. But consciousness, life, the World Spirit, God, the Universe, the Anima Mundi, your higher Self, contains EVERYTHING. All aspects of creation. (I talk more in-depth about this in an upcoming episode, so I’ll leave it there for now.)
Whether you’re living only in your lower energy centers, or in your higher – there’s no connection between the two halves of you. You’re denying one with the idea of the other. Denying happiness with the idea of suffering, or denying suffering with the idea of happiness. This way you’re seeping personal power from both ends. Your energy is moving from your upper centers into the ether, and from your lower centers into the earth.
The undivided self – living from integrity
Living from integrity is when you bring the energy and the frequency of the upper energy centers down into your whole body. Accepting and loving all that you are. Shadow and all. The taboo, unwanted parts of yourself. And when you move the stuck energy from your lower centers into your upper centers where that energy can release, transform and power you.
Living from integrity is merging the conscious and the unconscious, the feminine and the masculine, creation and destruction, the mind and the emotions, light and dark. When you no longer suppress one with the other.
When you do your personal power, fueled from both sides of your being – by the animal desires and wantings, and the vision of awareness – will meet in your heart. This is living a heart-centered life. This is living from your whole being.
This is bringing your soul into its full potential.
In the next episode, we’ll look at clues on how to spot that you are indeed operating from a spiritual ego. If you don’t want to miss that, make sure you’re receiving my emails in your inbox or are subscribing to the Uncover YOU podcast!
In this live session over Zoom we'll discuss episodes 11-13 of the Uncover YOU podcast and focus on how we can dissolve the Spiritual Ego.
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