The spiritual trap

BLOG: I am a little unusual amongst the Futures Studies community in that I am one of the few futurists who is very open about the importance of allowing a space in our futures for the spiritual dimensions of experience to unfold. If we initiate policies and organisational practices which focus too much on economic development, productivity and efficiency, we are planning for a very bland life experience, one stripped of life’s very essence. I have long pointed out the limits of scientific and empirical research – and the culture of modern science and unbalanced capitalism – in being able to understand these issues. You just can’t measure the subtlety of spiritual experience; and there isn’t a lot of money to be made from any research into it. So it is poorly funded and poorly understood.

You might think I am suggesting that we should all become more “spiritual”. But you would be wrong. Setting yourself up as a “spiritual” person ironically has the likely consequence of making Spirit less available to you.

Take a look at most spiritual groups and organisations. It doesn’t take too long to realise – after walking in the door – that there is either explicitly or implicitly an attitude that “we are morally and spiritually superior to the others”. It doesn’t matter whether we are talking about mainstream religion, or alternative spiritual groups. The current Muslim protests and riots across many countries are a good example. Even as they condemn others for oppressing them, the protesters believe that they are culturally superior. The other is always more racist, more prejudiced, more “evil’ than “we”. Yet to all outsiders looking in, the vengeful mob exhibits all of those qualities in abundance!

But are “we” really that different from the rioters? The answer is a definite “no”. Many Christians believe that they have found the way to God through Jesus, and that it is the only way. Buddhists believe that they are superior because they do not adhere to dogma. Practitioners of the Tanta believe that they know the true secret, that “nothingness’ lies at the heart of all things. New Agers feel that only they have seen through the conspiracy of silence, and that they know “the secret” of the law of attraction.

You might be getting a bit pissed off as you read this, especially if you identify with any of those groups. You might even say “I already know all this.” It’s beginner’s stuff.”

And you’d be right, too. This is an obvious awareness that is not difficult to see. Yet what I have come to realise is that this is a truth which needs to be revisited over and over again by anyone who sets out on a “spiritual” path. This is because the mind – or ego – by its very nature sees itself as separate and superior. I catch myself doing this all the time.

“I know best.”

“I already know this stuff.”

“Yeah, yeah. What else is new?’

“Let me tell you the truth!”

It is impossible to transcend this problem at the level of mind, no matter how many times the mind has come to “know” it. You can’t “think” your way out of it. Whenever we are in the world of thought, judgment arises and we are in the world of separation.

So how does one rise above the issue, if one cannot defeat it? The answer is that you don’t “beat” it. You just come into right relationship with it. You develop a gentle and loving attitude towards your own projections as they arise within you. This is how you become a “parent” unto yourself. Just as parent firmly and lovingly disciplines a child, you learn to lovingly witness your mind and “correct” its misunderstandings. Just notice the judgment as it arises, and gently return your attention to something that is “real” – say your breath or the pen on your desk. You might even like to have a little chuckle and “confess” your humanness to “God”, as I do. “Oh, I noticed that I feel morally superior to Jim. That’s good to see.”

It is incredibly simple. Just imagine what the world would be like if all “spiritual” and religious organisations taught people this! We certainly wouldn’t see people screaming hatred at the other on the streets. Much of our anger – though not necessarily all – would be understood to be the mind’s way of justifying its own sense of separation. And superiority.

Of course that would all be a little embarrassing. We would lose face. There would be an “ego fall” as the mind sees itself for the truth of what it is. Not separate. Not superior. Merely the same.

So stop being so spiritual. It’s a trap. Just be here. Just like them. Spiritual “practice” can cut you off from people and the world, and leave you feeling decidedly disconnected. Fragmented, even.

And don’t forget to thank “them” when you see yourself. They just taught you a great lesson.

 

Blessings,

 

Marcus

 

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