The Rise and Folly of Selfism
by David Truman
• The New Religion: Self
• Crown Jewels of Selfism: Separation, Power, Purpose, Protection
• Tributaries of Selfism
• Enter Spirituality, Stage East
• Have-It-Your-Way Spirituality
• Reviewing the Score
Look around. Can there be any doubt that selfishness has conquered this world and most of its people? Individualism has undermined cooperation and relationships -- even intimate relationships. Selfishness has even infiltrated and corrupted spirituality. (Spiritual methods to gain wealth and power, anyone?) Any honest person can see plenty wrong with that picture; perhaps, even, in their own life. Yet selfishness is going strong, leaving a trail of destruction wherever it goes.
All through the day
I me mine, I me mine, I me mine.
All through the night
I me mine, I me mine, I me mine.
Now they're frightened of leaving it
Everyone's weaving it,
Coming on strong all the time,
All through the day
I me mine.
-- George Harrison
The New Religion: Self
• The keystone of modern selfism: the psychological theory of individuation
• Artificial maturity
• Ego is to blame
• Confusing individuality and individualism
To properly talk about it, we need a name for it: selfism. As in words like Catholicism and existentialism, the suffix "ism" suggests that one gives great credence, almost worship, to a philosophy, an ideology. Selfism, then, is the worship of self, placing the self above all. The name fits the times, because devotion to self-interest has virtually become the universal religion.
This shocking conclusion is confirmed by the shockingly selfish ads we see these days. For example: "It's all about you" (Daytimer); "My Time, My Place, My Self" (on every page of a Soft Surroundings catalog); "Get your own box" (on every box of Cheez-It crackers). Entire generations of children have grown up believing that self comes first. "You have to live for yourself." "It doesn't matter what anyone else thinks." "Do your own thing." "You must love yourself before you can love anyone else." We hold these ideas as absolute truth. And even when the inevitable happens, and selfism ruins our lives, undermines our relationships, and obsoletes our highest ideals, we still bow down to the idol of self.
As you know, dogmas always tend to rule with an iron fist. The dogma of selfism is no exception. Try questioning anything a friend perceives as self-interest; see what happens. Remember: you are attacking his religion!
Though the tyranny of selfism is well entrenched, it can be overcome. Without a doubt, if the human heart thrives anywhere, it will be because selfism was overcome. But the overcoming of selfism can only happen one person at a time -- the same way humanity succumbed to it. So the most relevant question is this: Will you rise up, or will you live and die a slave to self and selfist ideology?
To understand your choices clearly, come with me now on a brief historic overview of this trend, and witness the way it has transformed spirituality in particular.
[NOTE: In reviewing recent fads of thought, I don't mean to suggest that selfism, in essence, is altogether new. Selfism must be as old as human life on earth. Nonetheless, because selfishness is weak and problematical, it is always failing, and therefore always needing to be re-invented. Consequently, each era has a new form of selfism -- an expression built with and for the vocabulary, mentality, and philosophical fashions of the day.]
The keystone of modern selfism: the psychological theory of individuation
Modern selfism derives much of its momentum from a twentieth century psychological theory called individuation. According to that theory, the child differentiates from its mother as a crucial step of human development. "Boundaries" of self become established; the child learns that it is distinct: different and separate. Until then, the child is not a fully-formed individual.
Psychologists often diagnose their adult patients as suffering from incomplete individuation. For example, many therapists presume that people who feel they care too much about the opinions of others, or about pleasing others, need to further individuate. By that standard, psychologists tend to consider a devoted wife or husband to be in need of professional psychological help with individuation.
Such persons, it is believed, have not established firm boundaries, and therefore cannot distinguish their own ideas from those of others. They bend too easily to influence; have difficulty setting limits and asserting individual will; and are easily taken advantage of. Psychologists and human potential trainers have encouraged such people to become extremely clear -- and assertive -- about where their boundaries are, what they like and don't like, who they are and are not, and so forth. Those popular methods have won many unwitting converts to the religion of selfism. But these converts are by no means "saved." The truth is: this focus on individuation is a slippery slope into unhealthy (excessive) individualism.
It is important to recognize that individuation as it is conventionally taught is not true individuation at all, but rather pseudo individuation: it is a set of modifications of thought and attitude which, taken together, produce artificial maturity. While the recommended behaviors -- defensiveness, self-assertion, limit-setting, self-expression -- supposedly represent healthy individuation, in reality, they are little more than compensation (ways to compensate for underlying insecurity). Those adaptations result from an aberrant idea of self, and from the presumed need to protect that aberrant self-idea from "assaults" by external forces -- especially, other people.
Clearly, people who depend on these techniques are far from healthy. They are nowhere near what Erich Fromm ("The Art of Loving") describes as the rare achievement of true emotional maturity. A genuinely mature individual would not feel threatened by other people; would be able to accept and accommodate the needs of others; would be able to consider advice, receive feedback, and adjust accordingly -- all without feeling that sovereignty has been jeopardized. And, such an individual would also be capable of love.
Obviously, the achievement of genuine maturity is not something the psychological community can reliably offer its clients. Perhaps one often-overlooked reason is this: Full emotional/psychological maturity develops only in the context of love -- in a life where true, self-transcending love flows liberally both ways. Since therapists are generally incapable of meeting this standard themselves, they can't possibly help their clients achieve it. So they simply help their clients "more successfully" adjust to and cope with inadequate personal security, inadequate interpersonal trust, inadequate capacity to love, and the heartbreak of living that way in a society of similarly immature people.
In many ways, their clients were better off before. They were more truly mature and human when they were more "naïve," more self-sacrificing, more accepting, and more flexible. They were certainly emotionally and spiritually healthier when they cared about what other people thought, and how they affected others. Now, they are more paranoid, rigid, and subservient in blindly conforming to the dogma of pseudo-individuation. That is not progress. And guess what? They know it. "I don't like the person I'm becoming," people say.
Egoism is to blame
This is not a tale of an innocent public led astray by the psychological community and self-help professionals. As always, the public grants power to the leaders they want. We vote for those leaders with our time and our wallets. We vote by buying this book rather than that book, taking one type of therapy instead of another, attending only certain classes, etc. The populace wanted leadership that would support egoism, and they literally got what they paid for. So, while a therapist who required serious responsibility from his clients was lucky to have any clients, a therapist who colluded with his clients' victim-consciousness had people lining up around the block.
In response to popular demand, psychology and modern culture have simply done what ego always does: it twists any idea, any principle, any practice into destructive forms. Ego-minded psychologists and ego-minded clients, together, have taken the notion of individuation and run with the ball far in a destructive direction. Ego-minded women and their ego-minded feminist leaders did the same.
Confusing individuality and individualism
Part of how people went astray is by failing to adequately distinguish between individuality on the one hand, and individualISM on the other. The same may be said of selfhood and selfISM -- the distinction is not clearly held. Selfism has built its appeal on those confusions, with tragic results.
Since neither the general psychological community nor popular culture is making the discernment upon which healthy living depends, let's give it a go:
Individuality refers to self as a unique masterpiece of God -- a gift that will never be duplicated and cannot be lost. Nonetheless, it is clearly in the interests of egoism to claim that individuality can be lost, so that vigilance is required to achieve, maintain, and protect one's selfhood.
Individualism, like selfism, implies intense devotion to an independent and separative mode of thinking, living, and being -- in order, presumably, to enhance and preserve one's precious-but-vulnerable individuality.
Self has become an obsession of the psychological community and its clients. And though psychology admits that excessive egoism is unhealthy, most of psychology's goals directly support and exacerbate egoism. Psychology is, in fact, a tool of egoism. Its founding fathers and mothers were plenty egocentric themselves. And now, for all intents and purposes, psychology has become the leading preacher of the gospel according to ego. Such is selfism.
Crown Jewels of Selfism:
Separation, Power, Purpose, Protection
• Approach with caution
Before we continue our tour through recent history, let's take a moment to look at the four highest values in the "gospel according to ego." Keeping them in mind will help us put the rest of the historical events into perspective.
Separation. The quintessence of individuation is an emphasis on, and an enthusiasm for, separation. Individuation and separateness are practically identical. Interpersonal blending -- being influenced, taking on the characteristics of another, etc. -- is considered to indicate lack of adequate boundaries, sufficient walls. Therefore, egocentric people are deeply disturbed by the experience of blending. "I'm losing my self, my center!"
Horsefeathers! Blending does not compromise individuation or individual identity. Great blending happens in lovemaking and between close friends. Is either party obliterated in that process? Of course not! Both survive just fine as who they are. Similarly, the natural sharing of mannerisms and opinions does nothing whatsoever to compromise the continuity of individuality. (Even though it may compromise rugged individualism, you see.)
Power. Personal power is another fundamental keystone of selfism. Power means:
1. To have your "own" power: self-power, personal power.
2. To wield that power.
3. To not be overwhelmed by other people's power.
All well and good, personal power. But under selfism's extreme lust for self-power, concerns about personal power and control have been inflamed to the point of neurosis. Obsessive concern for power and control now epitomize modern emotional dysfunction. Egoism rules over love.
The selfist epidemic has reached a stage where most people are quite terrified of anything that they think could rob them of power and control -- and they think virtually anything could rob them (including their spouse, their date, their boss, their lover, their own compassionate impulses . . .). People are terrified of any Divine power that moves through them. Terrified of love. Relationship. Commitment. Loyalty. Devotion. Orgasm. They are terrified because, thanks to selfist dogma, all those things seem likely to compromise self-separation, self-power, self-purpose.
Notice, if you dare, how much every selfist fears being dragged off-center by outside influences, by falling in love, or by joining with anyone or anything. Consequently, precious few selfists can cooperate closely/harmoniously with anyone -- not for love or money! As you consider these things, you begin to understand the extreme passion of selfism, the extreme commitment to it. And you can see, further, how the "success" of selfism is the downfall, not just of humane moral orientation, but also healthy social life, as well as true spiritual life (which, after all, requires true surrender and ego-transcendence).
Purpose. Another foundation stone of selfism is personal purpose. Selfism assumes -- again wrongly -- that being an individual means being wedded to your own exclusive purposes. For example, one should proudly say, "I'm following my own path. What others want for me is this, but what I want for me is something else." Of course one should follow one's heart; what's questionable is whether one must carve out a course of action in the isolation of one's own brain. The psychology of chronic rebellion and fear typifies the religion of selfism. Nothing suggests immaturity more.
Crucial to selfism is not just to have personal purpose, but to prevail in "getting one's own way." In the selfist mind, it is oh-so-important not to be thrown off track by the designs, example, influence, or advice of "other" people. To allow one's personal plan or purpose to be derailed or changed is a cardinal sin in the religion of selfism. How infantile that way of thinking is! Rugged individualism is, in effect, a return to the terrible two's.
The jewels need a watchdog: self-protection. Separation, power, and purpose, a dick and two balls -- those are the crown jewels, the family jewels, of selfism. What's the best way to guard the selfist's most cherished goals: to be separate, to stay separate, to be alone, to be different, to be individualistic. The spirit of self-protection -- the final essential of selfism -- does that dirty job. As a true-blue selfist, you protect your separation, your separateness. You protect your power. You protect your purpose.
A selfist says,
"I'm me, and you're you, and I'm going to keep it that way."
And that's paranoid-delusional.
The cutting edges of selfism
This completes our description of the cutting edges of selfism: self-separation, self-power, self-purpose, and self-protection. With those well-sharpened blades, revolving around ego, the selfist cuts his or her way through life.
The selfist cuts to protect and assert personal POWER.
The selfist cuts when he feels that his path/PURPOSE is being polluted -- in other words, influenced or changed -- by the path/purpose of an other. He cuts because he believes that HIS personal purposes are ever at odds with the purposes of all others.
The selfist cuts to maintain SEPARATION. She lashes out when she feels like she is merging, joining, or blending -- or when she WANTS to.
Approach with caution
"No one messes with me. I'm doing things
my way, and that's how it's gonna be."
Be careful when approaching selfists who are individuating and/or "individuated" (that is, pseudo-individuated). That fortress is nearly impregnable. And not only are they doggedly unreceptive; they're dangerous!
Once a man gets individuated he's got cutting edges. If you want to keep your head, keep a respectful distance.
Tributaries of Selfism
• Selfist trailblazers
• The self-improvement, personal power movement
Now, back to our original mission: to trace the course of selfism through recent times, starting from its headwaters.
Among those who live on the banks of the Nile, how many know where the river originates? And who cares, the water is here. But actually, there is a benefit in reviewing selfism's sources -- the popular teachings, and the people who created them. It will help you consider the significance and thrust of the principles they were preaching. You'll see how their influence permeates everyday life through popular attitudes that are as familiar as they are troubling.
Selfist pioneers taught many people, who then shared their ideas with us. So now, even though we may not know the originators' names, we're practically their disciples, because we're unconsciously following their teachings in the way we think and behave. And the important thing is, their way has become our way. We are creating our lives their way.
The more clearly you see selfism, the more you understand what you're up against with people -- and in your own psychology as well. You'll see how much you believe these principles, and live under them. The demon seed of selfism has infiltrated every nuance of modern social interaction and structure.
A handful of trailblazers contributed to the development of selfism as an entrenched, powerful philosophy, which now, it seems, most of humanity follows. These influences spread out largely from the United States, which has been the cultural leader of the world for the last fifty years or more. So it was very significant what happened here.
Gestalt. One of these influences was Gestalt, developed by a man named Fritz Perls. Perls wrote the now-famous "Gestalt prayer," which artfully summarizes selfist sentiments:
"I do my thing and you do yours. I am not in this world to live up to your expectations, and you are not in this world to live up to mine. You are you and I am I, and if by chance we find each other, then it is beautiful. If not, it can't be helped."
Motivational philosophies. The twentieth century produced a number of influential authors who wrote of the power of the mind for the realization of personal dreams -- in other words, self-purposes. The huge category of get-what-you-want books began with these: "As a Man Thinketh," by James Allen. "Think and Grow Rich," by Napoleon Hill. Slightly more subtle, perhaps, but still in the get-what-you-want vein, "How to Win Friends and Influence People," by Dale Carnegie and "The Power of Positive Thinking," by Norman Vincent Peale.
Feminism. Feminist leader Gloria Steinem won many converts to selfism. She counseled her adherents, "You are not an appendage of a man; you are your own person." So far, so good. But Steinem taught not just that women should be equal to men, but also that a woman should be individualistic. That, in fact, is somewhat unnatural for women. Women are not rugged individuals by nature, by DNA -- not really (and neither, in fact, are men). But Steinem convinced many women that their personal power depended on living individualistically, often with rabid self-dedication.
Social and economic changes in America brought a tremendous windfall for both feminism and selfism. When women had to enter the work force to make money, they had to compete in a man's world. They had to become somewhat more manlike, and what they thought that meant was more self-centered, more individualistic. This development gave selfism a tremendous boost.
The self-improvement, personal power movement
And don't forget the self-improvement (or human potential) game, which became the bread and butter of pop-psychology. Self-improvement concerned itself, primarily, with personal power, and secondarily, with personal purpose. "Get what you want out of life. Make a million. Attract a wonderful mate. Whatever your purpose is, we'll help you achieve it -- and fast."
"Do you believe your life can be better? Join now with millions of people who dare... around the globe! Gain the MIND Tools to Achieve - Excel - Live Well. Tune your MIND for peak performance. Learn to tune the frequency of your mind to receive what you desire just as you tune the frequency in your FM radio to receive the station you desire... leading to an abundance of creative solutions, fulfilling achievements and loving relationships." -- Jose Silva
Jose Silva, Werner Erhardt, L. Ron Hubbard, Fernando Flores -- these men comprise a power elite whose ideas influenced the world tremendously. As of 1994, one out of every 364 Americans had received est's personal power training. That's what self-development is all about, according to them: personal power. And all self-improvement seminars were determined to enhance it.
Scientology promised that you could become, by the use of its methods, "one of the most capable people on the planet." Erhardt Seminar Training made similar claims, as did its successors, The Forum and Landmark. Lifespring extended est-like processes and promises, presented in a more "humanistic" mold.
Those pioneers of modern thought are important for their influence. You cannot find a jazz player today who has not studied the blues. Similarly, the modern self-improvement gurus, clear down to people like Tony Robbins, all drink out of that same personal-power trough, and they all helped create and shape the culture of selfism.
Enter Spirituality, Stage East
• An unholy alliance: selfism and spirituality
• Neo-spirituality takes off
• Spiritual teachers and communities going extinct
In the fifties and sixties, Eastern philosophy captured the American mind. Beatnik poets like Jack Kerouac, Allen Ginsberg, and Gary Snyder all turned to Eastern thought as a primary influence. Harvard professor Richard Alpert dropped out, went to India, and returned as Baba Ram Dass, a powerful mystic-social leader. Many of these trendsetters helped spread the gospel of the East: "Go within, and find the truth."
Around that time, meditation was popularized by Maharishi Mahesh Yogi. A primary selling point was basic personal functionality -- that Transcendental Meditation (TM) could increase your clarity and your capacity to do well at work. By 2003, 1.5 million people practiced the method daily.
An unholy alliance: selfism and spirituality
As important as it was, the influx of Eastern spirituality did not change the direction of popular thought as much as one might have hoped. Instead, the two flirted with one another, and married. From their union came a monster child -- selfist spirituality, a blend of the traditional goals of spiritual seeking and purely egotistical purposes. Meditation and other spiritual practices became tools for self-power, self-realization. And the new pop-spirituality -- a medusa with many arms, many heads, and awesome hybrid vigor -- exploded on the scene. It took forms ranging from magical new age teachings and techniques, to "feel-good" Christian denominations, luring believers with consoling doctrines of power and abundance. Spirituality became, for all intents and purposes, a vehicle for the achievement of selfish, egocentric goals:
1. Spirituality for personal power and fulfillment of personal purposes
"Attract to yourself what you want. Learn to use
your mental power, your personal belief power,
and your prayer power to your advantage."
The Secret, the Law of Attraction, the new Christian doctrine of abundance, and Nicheren Shoshu Buddhism's practice of chanting to a sacred scroll for whatever you want -- all of these use "spiritual" methods to enhance personal power and purpose and pursue material abundance.
2. Spirituality for personal separateness and self-protection
To some people, the spiritual goals of enlightenment and God union seem to suggest the achievement of perfect wholeness -- absolute self-sufficiency. Inevitably, the idea of self-sufficiency -- being complete in oneself -- appealed to the selfist-separatist mind, tremendously. Soon, being whole and complete in yourself became a primary goal of pop-spirituality.
The time-honored goal of unity, shared by all of the great spiritual traditions of humanity, was insidiously (and enthusiastically) replaced by the egoistic goal of PERFECT SEPARATENESS. Suddenly, there was money to be made in the business of perfecting separation and separateness itself. For example, in the sixties and seventies, popular techniques were developed by the Berkeley Psychic Institute to sever draining aura-connections and karmic associations with other entities. Energy shields and other aura-protection methods quickly became staple offerings of many if not most new age organizations.
Neo-spirituality takes off
Spiritual traditions lost their original appeal, purpose, and power as their teachings and techniques were selectively extracted and repurposed to support the egotistical goals of selfism. Outrageous promises for the fulfillment of virtually any selfish dream by spiritual (or pseudo-spiritual) means were made. Wealth! Influence! And all of this was promoted as "enlightened" approaches to living.
Due to promises of supernatural support for mundane purposes, these new offerings became overnight successes. Meanwhile, the heavenly traditions, unconsenting donors of tools for fools, were drowned in a sea of aggressive new hybrids. The fact was, the old goals of spirituality -- self-transcendence, generosity of spirit, compassion -- had become passé (indeed, counter-cultural). Who wanted the old teachings now that their purposes were obsolete?
In modern, revised, "selfist" spirituality, nominally held spiritual ideals coexist with brazenly selfish values:
Get this: You've got your aura shield, your boundary reinforcements, your alien repellants and karma-cutters... and your no-boundary goal. You've got pursuit of personal empowerment and following your own bliss... and your desirelessness goal. Wow!
In short order, the values of separateness and individuality, self-power, self-purpose, and self-protection -- the four cutting edges of the new "religion" of self -- pared down spirituality until it was little more than est in ochre robes.
Spiritual teachers and communities going extinct
Other casualties of selfist spirituality were the spiritual teacher and the spiritual community.
These days, due to the obsession with rugged individualism, if you offer to teach a man something, or say that he has something to learn from anyone, he's likely to be insulted, incensed! As he sees it, his individualism is at stake in accepting guidance. He must be independent, and invent the wheel. Ask him if he's interested in joining a spiritual community or having a mentor, and he will be terrified.
Good fortune for the separatist crowd, and the anti-teacher, non-joining mentality: Jimmy Jones, David Koresh, and Charles Manson. And don't forget Rajneesh. Everything that looked like a teacher gone bad or a spiritual group gone bad became a field day for non-joiners and their anti-guru gurus.
It was significant that these teachers and their misadventures all converged in a fairly short historical period. The resulting string of terrifying headlines nailed the coffin shut on both communities and teachers. It was finally both fashionable and necessary, for the sake of personal pride and safety, for spiritual aspirants to not have a teacher, not be in a community. Selfism triumphed.
• Have-it-ego's-way spirituality
• The "I-don't-do-surrender" society
As we've seen, the three crown jewels of selfism -- personal separation (individualism), personal purposes, and personal power -- demand protection at almost any cost. And the cost of protecting them is sky high. Protecting those "jewels" costs love, intimacy, and true friendship. It costs the option of community involvement. It means living alone, being alone. And it costs having a real teacher.
Selfists can't have a teacher -- not in a personal, deep-in sense. The only teachers that are valid, then, are like the Buddhists. Buddhist student-teacher arrangements take the form of outpatient services. These teachers don't want a relationship with you; and unless you're a fanatic, you certainly don't want a relationship with them. But you could fly half way around the world for a visit, a retreat, an "empowerment" now and then, time and money permitting. You could even have your butt kicked, like you would at a fat farm or fitness spa, for a mercifully short period of time. Afterward, you're scot-free! You simply take up living where you left off. That's how the whole idea of cash-on-the-barrelhead spiritual truth vending came of age.
The spiritual vacation. It became popular to attend enlightenment weekends, seminars, empowerments, extended retreat experiences of all kinds -- not to mention spiritual tourism to world "power spots": Big Bear, Little Bear, Taos, Rishikesh. Take your pick. Come and go as you please.
The constant was this: Any means of spiritual growth had to satisfy the requirement that you could exploit it and still be a rugged-individualist. A few bucks, a little time, and you're back on your own. And you might pick up a title or two along the way, who knows? These new, highly efficient spiritual teaching machines cranked out thousands of retreats, intensives, trainings. They released thousands of cookie-cutter "masters" of various kinds.
The new spiritual "masters" are masters of selfist arts. The Reiki Master is typical. He doesn't need to devote decades to learning his art; he's a generalist. Any person, for a relatively modest outlay of time and money, can earn the title of master of a hodgepodge of "spiritual" selfist arts: auric protection; healing; mind power for abundance; self-actualization; self-realization. And a wall full of diplomas.
Design-your-own-retreat. Nowadays, a provider of spiritual services that doesn't accommodate egoic whims and preferences can't stay in business. The clientele is soft: spoiled, whimsical, averse to discipline. In order to survive, self-help forums and spiritual teachers have been obliged to chase the self-improvement dollar downmarket. The result is that, more and more often, the commitment required is minimal, and the nature of involvement is entirely customizable.
For the selfist, it's great that you can custom-design your own program. You could "have it your way" -- just as you can order a custom burger at some hamburger joints. Many retreat centers offer a long list of delightful options: "You can participate in group activities, or not, if you prefer. You can choose an intensive format, or a rest-easy schedule. We have massage services available at your request, but you don't have to use them. There are people who can serve as a mentor on your retreat, but that's entirely optional. You can stay as long or short as you wish. You can have your own room or shared accommodations." Etc., etc. Two hundred and fifty-six possible ways to tailor your spiritual life to your personal requirements -- that's have-it-your-way spirituality.
But you see, that isn't what spirituality is. Spirituality is God's way, not your way. If you're really serious about your smile, God's way is the only way. Spiritual learning is not a vacation option for an over-worked yuppie who needs a little rest, or who enjoys sightseeing in holy places, sacred power spots, etc. That's a far cry from what is truly spiritual. But that's what's called spirituality in the age of selfism.
Consider this: If you are ego-identified -- and why else would you be seeking so hard for relief from egomind? -- "as you like it spirituality" means one thing: spirituality the way your EGO likes it. But let's face it: any form of "spirituality" ego likes is not truly spiritual. It's about personal power, most likely. Or distraction, consolation. Self-indulgence, even. It's certainly not about transcending ego!
The real benefit of spiritual discipline is to relinquish the control of your life to another power; to get relief from your habitual ego-driven living. That's not going to happen in a self-styled, preference-based "spiritual life."
All serious teachers agree on this:
The ONLY way to get relief from ego, egoism, and all the miserable effects of egoism, is to TRANSCEND ego. No matter what perverters would like to believe, every truly spiritual path is, in both nature and intent, EGO-TRANSCENDING.
The new way of spiritual life offers way too much rope for the ego to hang us with. The ego's "Ways" or "Spiritual Paths" are ways to fail, spiritually, in the vain attempt to succeed selfishly. Those are paths to self-destruction, not self-improvement. The only ego-approved meditation is self-meditation -- the most destructive enterprise on earth.
Consider this: A ten-year old child comes back from summer camp much stronger, more wholesome, and less neurotic than when he went. Why? Mainly because while he was there he didn't have time to think. If you go to the mountain to meditate, think, and contemplate your navel, the chances are you'll come back in much worse shape than when you left. You're way better off just keeping busy and not thinking, than you are "meditating" (if, that is, what meditation means to you is thinking about things).
Whenever spirituality becomes a fascinating indulgence, we've lost the beneficial quality of truly self-transcending work. In that case, the ordinary disciplines of everyday life are far more effective for spiritual evolution than what is called spirituality. At the very least, ordinary life throws you curve balls and obliges you to jump.
The truth is, you're better off just going to work than you are creating your own spiritual life. Your boss will tell you what to do, and you'll have to do it. That's the closest thing to self-transcending work many people will ever see.
The "I-don't-do-surrender" society
Another part of ordinary life that naturally requires self-transcendence is relationship. But selfists are constrained to minimize relationships they really care about. Relationship, like self-transcendence and surrender, has been severed by the cutting blades of selfism.
Too bad! When you're in relationship with somebody whose well-being, preferences, and comfort matter to you, you get to dance. Dancing is a graceful give and take that keeps you from getting set, crystallized.
But when it comes to dancing, there are two different ways one can dance:
1. Tell me what to do and I'll do it (do it well and right, that is). Or,
2. Tell me what to do and I'll ruin it, and thereby invalidate it (in my own mind, at least).
Selfism prefers #2. Ruining something is a way to get out of it. A man systematically misfiled papers, because he didn't want to do filing anymore. Similarly, if you don't want to surrender, get somebody to tell you what to do, and mess it up. That way, you are making sure -- consciously or subconsciously -- that no one asks you to surrender again.
But surrender is still necessary. When will we learn how important surrender is, how valuable, how liberating? And when, on the basis of that recognition, will we surrender in the only way that works -- sincerely.
Apart from surrender, what is your purpose? It's all about ME: My stuff. My power. My control. My separateness. And, to protect all that: my desire to not be influenced. That's the same old ego junk. "ME spirituality" reads like a cosmetics commercial.
For surrender to represent a real alternative to all that, you need two things: a true desire to surrender in relationship, and the willingness to be sufficiently surrendered, and consistently surrendered -- so you don't ruin it.
Reviewing the Score
So now you know where selfist spirituality came from, how it's grown, and why. You understand, clearly, how powerfully selfist principles are driving people, and where to. And hopefully, you also realize that the only way to get off the selfist highway to hell is by transcending ego truly.
You now have a tremendous advantage. When a person really sees what's happening with selfism, the true options look better. When you notice the fact that the little selfist cutter with its sharp blades is destroying nearly everything, you suddenly appreciate the merit of doing it God's way. There's value to self-transcending living, instead of running after personal plans and purposes. There's value to relying on Divine power -- not personal power, creature power. It's good to be unified, not separate. And it's good to blend.
It is safer, really, to give up the self-destructive concept of self-protection. Think about it. Self-protection, as we know it, is all about protecting the hideous "treasures" of personal separateness, personal power, and personal purpose. Those treasures are, in reality, sources of tremendous pain and destruction.
Look at the selfist life, the harvest of it. Notice that when people fight for selfist values, they are fighting for something that's quite agonizing and unfulfilling to them -- separation itself. The trouble is, they can't possibly be fulfilled from a position of separateness -- no one can. So putting a fence around self-separation, self-power, self-purpose, is insane. It's like protecting your own cancer.
Overthrow the tyranny of self
A lot of people say, "I'd much rather rule in hell than serve in heaven." I'd say, they've already gotten their wish. But you know, it is much better to serve in heaven than to rule in hell. Much, much better. Much more fulfilling.
Friends, the smart money is on renunciation:
• DO renounce the "selfist" life and lifestyle, and overthrow the tyranny of self in your own life.
• DON'T live for separation, for self-power, self-purpose. Don't live to protect such garbage.
• Live to love. Live to serve. That's the ONLY way to be happy.
And you don't need to think, "What does this mean to me?" Instead, think, "What does this mean to everyone?" Then you can adjust what you do, what you say, what you think, accordingly -- for the happiness of all. This is God's way -- the way God intended humanity to live, and the way your own heart wants you to live. Isn't it?
by David Truman
Please feel free to share copies of this article.
We only ask that you mention its source.
- The Living Love Fellowship -