“Thank you God” (iii)
The whole thing is so terrifically vast in its scope of misapprehension and confusion. My opinion of and ideas concerning you are based on the degree to which I sense that you happen to validate the confused ideas that I have concerning myself. My confused ideas of myself, in turn, are based upon other confused ideas that I have gotten from various parts of what I have projected onto the Other, said notions all resulting in turn from confused projections of mine…confused projections upon confused projections, argh.
Basically, we’re all more than just a little confused. After all, how many jnanis do you know, how many sages, how many enlightened beings, etc.? Making our way in this world, by necessity we work everyday with and navigate via our confused ideas about self and other. The fact remains, though—- there is suffering, constant suffering permeating our experience of life, and we are constantly causing others suffering through this very confusion that we are mired in and perpetuating. If I get mad and yell at you, causing you grief, it’s generally because you are doing something that I find threatening to my confused sense of “me”.
In seeking to relieve suffering, we may attempt to embark on a spiritual quest of one sort or another. Even if our motivation in this direction stems from experiencing a “spritual high”, our ultimate motivation is still based on a desire to eliminate or lessen suffering—- else we would not find the experience of the high so seductive and compelling when viewed against the background of our usual experience of life.
Attempting to follow a spiritual path is certainly a noble idea—- seeking to realize God or to become enlightened is probably a more worthy pursuit than pursuing a life of crime or pursuing a food addiction or trying to become famous, or whatever combination of survival strategies plus pleasure-seeking our lives usually entail. One problem with spiritual pursuits, though, is that they are so often corrupted by “spiritual materialism“. In other words, we aren’t actually interested in knowing God, or knowing truth, or cutting through the sources of suffering in our lives, but rather merely seek to feel better about our sense of self. For example, we don’t wish to know God, but rather to feel secure in the knowledge that others know that we know God and in addition, that we know God better than they do. We don’t wish to know truth, but rather to know that our latest pet sense of identity is somehow safe and secure. We don’t wish to cut through the source of suffering in our life, but rather to create a cocoon for our egos, so that we may no longer worry about the threat of being proven wrong, or being vulnerable to any sort of pain…
Instead of seeing through the illusion of ego, we attempt to solidify it through spiritualizing it, through painting a spiritual veneer over our confusion. The very motivations which have been attempting to maintain a solid sense of self now purport to take on the role of spiritual aspirant. Instead of being willing to let go of our confused sense of self, we try to build it up further, and create the identity of self as spiritual seeker. We are unwilling to become nothing, or to give up the struggle of having to be something or worrying about being nothing. Instead we are trying to fashion ourselves into a bigger and better and holier something. We are uninterested in the truth, but only seeking to defend our ego and to erect some sort of inviolable fortress to protect it. If the truth threatens the ego, then we lose interest in the truth. If knowing God threatens the ego, if it involves genuinely humbling the self, then we lose interest in knowing God.
It’s a catch-22 of sorts. If we so strongly identify with ego, then how exactly are we to step outside of ego and engage in genuine spiritual practice? Isn’t our practice corrupted as long as it is about ego seeking enlightenment? On the other hand, if we are able somehow to step outside of egoic activity, then wouldn’t that indicate enlightenment, and make all of our effort redundant? Hmmm.
I suppose that this is why all spiritual practices worth their salt are actually tricks in one sense or another, shortcuts to aid in overcoming this dilemma. Prayer is directly petitioning God and requesting his grace so that we might overcome this dilemma. Various psycho-physical yogic techniques manipulate our internal energies so that we can get past some of our mindstuff, and leap ahead to better perspectives afforded by, say, having our heart chakras opened up more expansively. Various meditation techniques involve observing our passing thoughts and emotions which create the illusion of ego, but without indulging or suppressing them and thus feeding into the mechanisms that perpetuate the egoic process. Visualization techniques bypass our thought processes and go to deeper emotional levels and healing archetypes deep in our psyches.
And then there is the method of acceptance, surrender to God’s will, which is a way of directly letting go of egoic motivations.
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