Updated: Jul 31
Picture yourself at your spiritual peak. For years, you have dedicated yourself to various practices such as meditation, yoga, qigong, chanting, and ritual. You've attended copioius retreats, studied all of the major texts, made pilgrimages to holy sites and sat with an array of spiritual masters and esteemed Gurus. You have amassed a collection of mala beads, statues, crystals, and other spiritual objects that reflect your accomplishmed spiritual journey. You have had multiple phenomenal experiences in your spiritual practices that are indicative of your natural gift in spirituality and that you are proficient in your practice. You are living with a heightened sense of self-awareness and you are responsible with sharing this with the world.
What if I told you this might be all an illusion? That you might actually be further from the spiritual journey at your 'peak' than you were at the beginning. What if, despite your best intentions, you have fallen into the subtle trap of the spiritual ego, spiritual materialism, and an excessive focus on spiritual experiences?
Often, our perceived spiritual journey may in fact be a detour, a cunning trick of the ego masquerading as our "higher" or "spiritual" self.
The presence of a spiritual ego is a significant and common part of the spiritual path. One might, even say it is a necessary part of the spiritual path. And if it hasn't been a part of yours than you might be living it. The spiritual ego convinces us that we are more 'enlightened' than others, that we are special, and subtly inflates our sense of self-importance. This is a delicate trap to navigate because the spiritual ego often operates under the guise of humility and service.
The spiritual ego refers to the self that believes it has achieved some level of 'higher' knowledge or consciousness. It is a construct that tends to engage in the activities of comparison, judgment, and the desire to establish superiority. The Spiritual Ego subtly inserts itself into our spiritual practices and beliefs, convincing us that we possess a higher level of spirituality or enlightenment compared to others. The subject under discussion is a clandestine and elusive entity, frequently evading detection due to its guise of spirituality.
The Spiritual Ego subtly inserts itself into our spiritual practices and beliefs, convincing us that we possess a higher level of spirituality or enlightenment compared to others.
One of the discernible indicators of the spiritual ego manifests when our spiritual beliefs and practices transform into a symbol of prestige, serving as a means to distinguish ourselves from others. We may begin to perceive others as 'less spiritual' or less enlightened, and subtly pass judgment on them for not being as awakened as we are. This is the spiritual ego at play, using spirituality as a means to inflate our sense of self-importance.
Another manifestation of the spiritual ego occurs when we start to hold the belief that we have reached a definitive endpoint in our spiritual journey. Even the belief that there is an endpoint that "I" need to meet is a nuance of the spiritual ego. There is no final destination and even if there was one, there is no "I" that will make it there. The spiritual path is an ever-deepening process of continuous Self-discovery. The moment we think we have 'arrived' is the moment we stop growing. The spiritual ego loves to cling to the illusion of reaching a final destination, as it gives it a feeling of solidity and permanence.
There is no final destination and even if there was one, there is no "I" that will make it there. The spiritual path is an ever-deepening process of continuous Self-discovery.
If you are committed to your spiritual journey, it is important to recognize that the spiritual ego, although awkward, embarrassing, and uncomfortable to confront, is likely to manifest in some way or another. We cannot destroy the ego. There may be moments in your spiritual journey where you experience egoless-ness, but this is only possible through Grace and not your own will. Even when we are able to deconstruct or see through the illusion of our ego, it always manages to rebuild itself. This is because the ego is necessary for navigating life in the world. If we were completely free from the ego, we would struggle to perform basic human functions such as feeding ourselves and walking. Some level of ego is necessary to function in the world. It is likely that as long as we are spiritual practitioners, we will have the spiritual ego with us. However, we can be free of the ego and still have it present.
We cannot destroy the ego. There may be moments in your spiritual journey where you experience egoless-ness, but this is only possible through Grace and not your own will.
In order to rid ourselves of the spiritual ego, we must recognize it for what it truly is: a little sidekick with terrible ideas that tries to join us on our journey. By cultivating humility, spiritual maturity, and Self-awareness, we can differentiate between our true Self and our spiritual ego. By practicing humility, we can recognize our spiritual ego and trust that it will weaken simply by not engaging with it. In maturity, we understand that there is no specific appearance, feeling, or state that someone must possess in order to be spiritual. You are infinite, and the entire universe resides within you. As infinite consciousness, all aspects of the phenomenal experience are part of you. Your True Self neither denies nor rejects any aspect of its infinite itself. Finally, we enhance our self-awareness through persistent and dedicated sadhana. In the end, we're all spiritual beings and there is no one way that spirituality is meant to look. Seeing through the mental commentary that tells us how to be spiritual is the beginning of finding freedom from the spiritual ego.
By cultivating humility, spiritual maturity, and Self-awareness, we can differentiate between our true Self and our spiritual ego.