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Spirituality Confronts the Ego:
Finding a Life-Affirming Approach

By George A. Boyd ©2003

The ego is the nucleus of the Conscious mind. Most people spend the vast majority of their waking hours with their attention associated with the ego. Layers of experience within the ego include the following:

Layer

Experience

Description

1

Core

Feelings about your life, your basic reactions to the way your life is going

2

Achievements

What you believe you have successfully achieved, feelings of pride and self-esteem

3

Career Path

What you visualize as avenues for future study or advancement in your career, how you may increase your wealth and income

4

Relationship

What you sense is going on in your current relationship and your history of relationships, how you might establish a relationship if you are not currently in one

5

Appearance

What you think you look like to others, what is attractive about you and what needs improvement

6

Possessions

What you own and your feelings about them, what you need to add to your possessions and what you need to discard, give away or sell

7

Environment

Your living space and what you feel about it, how you wish to modify it, what you need to augment it

8

Reality

Identifying what you are doing and experiencing in the present time, your orientation to the external world in the present time

Spirituality adopts two tracks with the ego: life-affirming and life-negating.

Life-affirming approaches regard the ego as a necessary aspect of consciousness, which permits an individual to function in the physical world and the parameters of consensual reality.

Life-negating approaches regard the ego as evil, an illusion, as imprisoning limitations that need to be transcended or as an ogre or demon.

"Healthy" religion and spirituality take a life-affirming approach towards the ego. They recognize that the ego has its place in the ordered mansions of consciousness—otherwise the Creator would not have made the ego and the structures of the conscious mind in the first place. The ego needs to be understood and appropriately disciplined in its excesses, but it is not inherently evil.

"Unhealthy" religion and cultic groups adopt a life-negating approach. The ego is seen as demonic or inherently evil, and must be dissolved, destroyed or held in check through unwavering austerity. Its mission is seen as to continually deceive the individual and hold the individual back from spiritual communion and inward progress.

When we contrast the views of the layers of experience within the ego by the two approaches, we find the following:

Layer

Life-Affirming

Life-Denying

Core

The essence of the ego is good. Its mission is to ensure that the body survives so the Soul can have an instrument of expression in the physical world.

The ego is evil. It is a child of the Devil. Its essence is to deceive the Soul so that the Soul won’t wake up. The urge to survive as a body creates fear, and fear paralyzes the mind. This must be rooted out so that one can realize one’s true spiritual nature.

Achievements

Achievements build self-esteem. Self-esteem yields positive attitudes, lessens depression and reinforces positive attitudes about the world and other people. They are natural, pleasurable and expected elements of personal growth.

Achievements build false pride and conceit. Man is nothing and man’s achievements amount to nothing. Only those achievements that are in service to God and the Spiritual Master have any value.

Career Path

Career growth is an expression of a person’s gifts and talents. It provides livelihood to the family, support for the community and the possibility for charitable giving.

Career is a distraction from the only true work: realizing God and serving the Spiritual Master. Career is only meaningful if it provides money to serve God and/or the Spiritual Master. All available income must be donated to the Spiritual Master.

Relationship

Where partners are compatible, loving relationship fulfills many human needs. Friendship and spousal relationships are the foundation of human community and provide a nexus of love and belongingness in which personal growth can occur. Individuals on the same spiritual path can support and encourage one another.

Most relationships with friends and spouse imprison the mind in superficial mundane activities or activate sensual passions. Only the spiritual relationship with God and the Spiritual Master is valuable and worthwhile. Devoted disciples of the Master can encourage and inspire meditation and spiritual progress. If one can be a celibate renunciate, then one can make the most spiritual progress.

Appearance

One should strive to be in the best health and look one’s best in order to embody beauty. This helps one to attract a mate but is also expected behavior in the workplace.

Concern with appearance feeds vanity and puffs up the false ego. One should be concerned with the purity of the heart and devotion to God – only inner things are important, not outer things.

Possessions

Possessions are the tools of life that allow one to function in the world.

Possessions are fetters that tie one down with worries and chores – the fewer possessions that one owns, the better. When one dies, one loses all possessions. Better to focus on meditation and spirituality.

Environment

One should bring beauty, order and harmony into the environment in order to bring serenity and efficiency to living.

The world revealed by the senses is false. Turn off the senses and commune with God. Only spiritual objects should be in the environment to remind one of God, the Spiritual Path and the Spiritual Master.

Reality

The external world is real and our lives are real and meaningful. Our present time experience is the crux of our life.

The external world is an illusion and human life is only a dream. Spirituality is the only real and legitimate activity of life.

We believe that the life-affirming approach to the ego yields better physical and mental health than the life-denying approach. Suppression of natural propensities will only move them underground in the unconscious. We find that checking inappropriate tendencies of the ego coupled with the nurturing of its experience yields a more balanced and natural personality expression. Moreover, the fixation in altered states of consciousness engendered by the life-denying approach can interfere with normalized personality expression.

We hope that you will reflect upon the perspective through which you regard the ego. We encourage you to consider the long-term consequences of holding your current view and whether making constructive changes would produce better results.

 

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