The Many Faces of Spiritual Egotism

By George A. Boyd © 2016

This article builds upon our article, “Reflections on the Ego,” and explores the dimension of spiritual egotism in greater depth. Our original commentary is found in an article, “The Seven Postures of the Ego,” where we discuss the seventh form of egotism, which is spiritual egotism. We will quote from this article on this aspect of egoic expression:

Subtle Egoic Identification – This aspect of the ego enables you to identify with a spiritual essence, and then to form certain beliefs, attitudes, and judgments about self and others when you are in this state of identification. For some, it gives then a sense of superiority, of specialness, of being a member of an elite group. For others, this takes the form of comparing their progress with others, and being dissatisfied with the rate and quality of their spiritual progress. For others, it is a belief that they are flawed; that they are demented, blind, worms that can never gain enlightenment or receive the blessings of God. For others, it can become a sense of narcissism and grandiosity—that they are a Divine Being incarnate, and they are entitled to special treatment, and worship and obedience from others.”

“The belief that one has been born again and has adopted a new state of identity carries along with it this subtle egoic identification. When people say, for example, they are Christians, Yogis, Muslims, Hindus, or Buddhists; they are activating this subtle form of identification.”

“This new state of identification can become a pseudo-personality, as UCLA researcher Dr. Jolyon West called it, and take on a life of its own—divorced from the genuine feelings and issues of human life. When people dwell in pseudo-personality, they live a spiritual agenda instead of their authentic lives. They adhere to a sense of purpose that a spiritual teacher defines; or a lifestyle that a Divinely-inspired scripture commands, or that is revealed through inner communion with an advanced spiritual being through inner visions, revelations, and channeled or prophetic messages. When they are so “inspired and guided,” they no longer inhabit their own lives; they are committed instead to follow a spiritual path, whose precepts inculcate what they should choose, think, and believe, and how they should act.”

“Many spiritual teachers emphasize the egoic aspects (3) [the defensive posture] and (4) [the shadow], which are largely negative, and advocate (7) [subtle egoic identification] instead—re-identification with a higher spiritual essence. Tolle is no different here: he seeks refuge from the unconscious aspect of the ego, the shadow, by keeping attention anchored in “Being, ” e.g., present time state…” [Please see the article, “Reflections of the Ego” cited above to learn about these egoic aspects.]

In this article, we wish to use these initial insights as a springboard to examine the facets of spiritual egotism in greater depth. We seek to answer the questions, “How does subtle egotism manifest?” “What are its links to distorted mental functioning?” “How can a wayfarer upon the Path, who recognizes that subtle egotism has taken a sinister turn, eradicate these patterns from the mind?”

How Does Subtle Egotism Manifest?

Subtle egotism takes a variety of forms:

  1. Comparison with others – this can manifest as superiority (“I am so much more advanced than him on the Path”) or inferiority (“He is so much more advanced than I am and he is making much faster progress than me. What’s wrong with me?”)
  2. Jealousy and Envy – this form appears when it appears that another disciple is getting more attention from the spiritual Master, or greater blessings from God. This manifests as a “sour grapes” attitude (“Well, he might get attention from the Master because he knows how to show off before the other disciples he loves the Master, but the Master knows that I am his true devotee, and I don’t have to make vain displays.”)
  3. Narcissism – This takes the form of absorption in a spiritual essence coupled with a sense of greatness or omnipotence. The disciple feels vastly superior to others—like the God King, Pharaoh, to his “mortal” subjects—so that he expects that others will serve him; show him deference and the highest respect; anticipate his every need or wish; never disagree with him, because he has superior insight and wisdom; and indeed, should even worship him. Extremely narcissistic disciples cannot take public transportation, because they might be polluted or drained of energy by common people; they cannot broach any criticism, and consider it a personal affront; or cannot deign to do any work themselves, but delegate it to those who are their “inferiors”—as they cannot be bothered to do these menial tasks, as others are “meant to serve them.” [If severe, spiritual narcissism can transform into narcissistic personality disorder.]
  4. Grandiosity – The grandiose disciple loses his human grounding and feels that he is a god-like being endowed with supernatural powers and great wisdom. This grandiosity can take three forms: (a) distorted identity (narcissism – q.v.), (b) delusional thinking and belief (mania), or (c) perceptual aberrations (illusions and hallucinations). When grandiosity becomes increasingly severe—and when all three forms accompany it, the disciple migrates into psychosis—delusional disorder, mania, and grandiose paranoid schizophrenia.
  5. Intense focus on the faults of self and others – In those disciples who have a very strict conscience, or are disciples of teachings that expect they will adhere to the highest standards of moral purity and saintly behavior, they can be extremely harsh in their criticism of their fellow disciples, themselves [this pattern can lead to depression], and even of their spiritual Master.
  6. Idealizing spiritual aims and devaluing personal ones – Those disciples that create an idealized vision of what it will be like when they reach a certain state of the Path may become so enraptured with their vision that they neglect to attend to their personal lives. They may fail to find a marital partner. They may neglect their education. They may find it impossible to focus on complex work, and instead, find employment in low pay, low skilled jobs.
  7. Expecting miraculous outcomes and Divine intervention – Those who regard themselves as “special,” “beloved of God,” one of “God’s children,” or “one of the chosen ones [the Elect],” may expect, even demand that God must take care of them. They expect that they will not need to make any effort other than praying, affirming, decreeing, claiming God’s promises by faith, or visualizing their desired outcome, and the “Law of Attraction,” “the Universe,” the “Divine Mind,” or “Providence” will instantly manifest whatever they need or desire.

We encourage aspirants and disciples to examine themselves honestly to uncover the signs of emerging spiritual egotism.

  • Are you comparing yourself to others’ progress or behavior?
  • Do you feel you are special? Do you feel that you have God’s special favor?
  • Do you feel you are great and powerful, and far superior to others?
  • Have you become arrogant? Do you belittle or condemn others because they do not believe as you do?

Antidotes to these tendencies to spiritual egotism include the following:

  1. Humility – realize that whatever your spiritual attainment, you don’t stop being a human being with limited knowledge and ability, emotional fragility and vulnerability, character weaknesses—and you are mortal.
  2. Keep your human grounding – don’t stay in altered states of awareness for long periods of time—for this can bring about sustained identification with these states in which you feel god-like, grandiose, and omnipotent
  3. You are competing only with your self – Stop comparing yourself to others, as you must focus on the mission you were meant to accomplish. What abilities are you meant to develop? Develop them through study, practice, and experimentation. What knowledge, understanding and wisdom do you need to gain to carry out your mission? Gain them through study, contemplation, and reflection. What virtues were you meant to acquire? Work on your character to bring these qualities forth. What masteries were you called to manifest? Study each aspect of the Path connected with that stage of development and synthesize the necessary abilities, knowledge, and ministerial competencies to operate from that platform.
  4. Realize that everyone is suffering – Climb down from the mountaintop of arrogance into the valley of the heart. Before you give others a thorough tongue lashing—heaping invectives and insults upon them for not living up to your standards—realize that they may be coping the best that they can given the issues with which they are dealing, and are doing the best that they can right now.
  5. They may not be ready or suitable for your Path – Before you assume you know best for others and presume they need to join your religious group or take initiation into your spiritual Path—because you believe it is the best and highest one—consider where their Soul is on the Path, and what are the personal issues with which they are dealing. It may not be appropriate for them to leap up onto your Path in the Cosmic, Supracosmic, or Transcendental bands of the Continuum—they simply are not ready.
  6. Consider what you are avoiding in your own self – In many people that adopt grandiose and narcissistic mindsets, these states of power and inflated sense of identity are reactions to not wanting to look at very painful areas within them. They become great in their own eyes, so they don’t have to confront their own feelings of inferiority, lack of competence, and weakness. You may wish to question, “What’s behind this grandiosity?”
  7. You’ll never be as great as God – The Divine is part of another order of Nature. Your consciousness is anchored in your physical body; the forms of the Divine encompass the entire planet, the solar system, the Monadic Life Wave, the galaxy, the physical universe, the astral cosmos, the causal-mental cosmos, and the ultimate Source from which the Soul and the spirit were born. Your job is to actualize your human and spiritual potentials, and stop trying to play God. Instead consider: “How may I be of service?” How can I use my knowledge and abilities to benefit others?”

We encourage you to observe your own tendencies to spiritual egotism, and to root out these weeds from the garden of your spiritual heart. We suggest that you will benefit from using the antidotes to spiritual egotism to help you correct these inflated, narcissistic and arrogant mindsets, and to settle back into your humanness again.

Reflections on Judgment

By George A. Boyd © 2019

Q: The Bible says, “thou shalt not judge.” Can you shed some light on judgment?

A: It is important to understand the levels of judgment and when each is appropriate. There are seven major types of judgment:

  1. Critical judgment – This finds fault with others based on your internal standards of conscience. When your conscience is vitiated, this type of judgment may give rise to egotism, prejudice, jealousy, envy, arrogance, pathological narcissism, and fanaticism.
  2. Decision-making judgment – This looks at the pros and cons of different options and decides which one is best. This type of judgment attempts to guide you to make the optimal decision that will bring you the best results. Professional counselors facilitate you to use this type of judgment.
  3. Juridical judgment – This makes decisions about guilt or innocence and sentencing based on a review of prior case law, the evidence in the case, the accused person’s prior criminal history, and the assessment of his or her probability of committing additional offenses or fleeing if released to the community. This type of judgment establishes the rule of law. Judges make these types of decisions. Attorneys argue for the conviction or defense of the accused. Legislators at the state and national level generate new laws. Law enforcement places those who violate the law and are apprehended into custody.
  4. Righteous judgment – This examines the consequences of action—how your actions and speech will impact others and your self. When you use this type of judgment, you attempt to choose actions that are appropriate, prudent, circumspect, efficient, causing the least amount of harm—and ideally, actions that are kind, compassionate, and wise. This type of judgment dawns in those who practice the precepts of religion. If this type of judgment is applied for long periods of time, it develops good character and saintly virtues.
  5. Spiritual discernment – This enables you to intuit the different layers of your Superconscious mind through the brain center of your Soul’s essential vehicle, and to realize your Soul’s true nature. Employing this type of judgment ultimately leads to enlightenment. This type of judgment blossoms in advanced aspirants and disciples.
  6. Higher order spiritual discernment – This enables you to discern a nucleus of identity, ensouling entity, or spirit of the Transplanetary, Cosmic, Supracosmic, or Transcendental bands of the Continuum, and to identify with it. Those that reach the Mahatma stage on the Bridge Path gain access to the interpenetrating awareness, which enables them to discern the spiritual development of others at every level of the Continuum. This type of judgment awakens in advanced disciples.
  7. Ministerial judgment – This type of judgment reveals the essential nature of each individual, whom the Master selects to receive spiritual ministry. It discerns what types of attunements are appropriate for aspirants and disciples at their current stage of spiritual development. Initiates utilize this form of judgment.

Scripture condemns critical judgment, when it makes comparisons of others to spurious values. These comparisons to the inner standards of conscience include:

  1. Your “egoic standing” – These are judgments you make about your status and how well you are doing compared to others. When you are doing well, this type of critical judgment allows you to feel superior to others. You might, for example, consider yourself to be wealthier, more intelligent, more beautiful or handsome, physically stronger, or more sophisticated or cultured than others.
  2. The criteria of prejudice – In this perspective, you compare others to negative stereotypes you learn about them—you presume that each member of this targeted group has these same negative characteristics. This type of critical judgment breeds hatred and intolerance; it breeds acts of discrimination, injustice, and violence.
  3. The criteria of jealousy – Through this filter, you consider that another person is a rival for the affections of someone you desire. It leads you to perceive only the negative characteristics of your rival, and you may attempt to sabotage the other person’s efforts to have a relationship with the one you desire.
  4. The criteria of envy – Through this lens, you feel you are inferior to others because they are wealthier, more beautiful or handsome, have a partner who loves them, are more famous or have greater adulation from others—and you want these things for yourself. Envy drives you to adopt a variety of defense mechanisms, including viewing what others have as flawed or defective (sour grapes); justifying your own station in life as virtuous; adopting passive aggressive stances in your relationships with these people; or finding ways to criticize or “bad mouth” them to others.
  5. The criteria of arrogance – When you regard others from this standpoint, you not only feel you are superior, but you also feel justified to bully, harm, or destroy others’ person, property, or reputation—especially when you believe they are competing with you for something you want. Arrogance may lead you to justify criminal or violent acts against those who you don’t like, or who oppose you.
  6. The criteria of narcissistic entitlement – When you adopt this attitude, anyone who doesn’t love you, obey your every wish, agree with your every decision, or remain perpetually loyal to you—you suspect them of being a traitor, you immediately belittle them, and jettison from the circle of those who currently entertain your favor. Mental health professionals refer to this behavior, when it is pronounced, as pathological narcissism.
  7. The criteria of demonic rage – Those who demonstrate this radical stance so strongly believe in their political or religious ideology that they hold—that if others do not follow their belief system, they are judged to be evil, and can be persecuted, tortured, or killed. This type of critical judgment underlies the mindset of the political or religious fanatic, the hate group follower, or the terrorist.

When you are able to activate your higher wisdom faculty that operates righteous judgment, you will begin to uproot these types of critical judgment. You will replace these negative character traits of critical judgment with:

  • Humility
  • Gratitude
  • Caring for others
  • Considering what is for others’ highest good
  • Kindness and helpfulness
  • Acceptance of others’ diversity and difference
  • Tolerances of differences of belief and opinion
  • Understanding
  • Forgiveness
  • Mercy

When you deconstruct your negative, critical judgment mindsets, you replace it with virtues. You begin to rehabilitate your character and purify your conscience. The scripture you cite admonishes you to work form the platform of righteous judgment, so you can engage in this ongoing project of character transformation, thereby turning your vice into virtue, your ignorance into wisdom.

To facilitate this healing of your conscience and rehabilitation of your character, you may wish to contemplate each of the virtues listed above, and identify how you might express these virtues in your relationships with others. The meditation of the pairs of opposites in our intermediate courses—the in-person Mudrashram® Master Course in Meditation and the by-mail and online Accelerated Meditation Program—will help you develop these virtues.

It is important to understand that this scripture is not asking you to abandon discernment, to not administer the law if you are a judge, or refrain from making optimal personal choices—it is asking you to root out the negative aspects of critical judgment and replace them with wisdom and virtue.

You also need to be clear that not all forms of judgment are negative: it is the negative attitudes of critical judgment that you must remove.