Threshold Society Theme for April 1996
The Law, by which we mean any true religion or ethical system, will set some limits on the ego’s cravings, while giving the self its due. The self has a right to healthy and unselfish pleasures, but it does not have the right to take from others, either through power or deception, in order to gain its own advantage or satisfy itself. This is the teaching of all real religions, and it is the essential foundation upon which the next stage of human development depends.
The Path, or esoteric stage of development, is a further refinement and purification from our egoistic tendencies. Some esoteric systems, having divorced themselves from the Law, from a truly Divine Way, focus on the development of knowledge, consciousness, or will without adequately transforming the self and its egoistic demands. And so the Path itself becomes a means for the subtle exercise of ego.
The position of a spiritual teacher or leader is dangerous, because such a person must sometimes use power, exercise authority, and assume responsibility without furthering either his own ego or the collective ego, and without even receiving the usual satisfactions and benefits of worldly responsibilities. In fact, he or she must, in many ways, use that power and authority to deconstruct the whole arena of ego satisfaction. By his or her life and the activities of the community must demonstrate that it is possible to live without the usual agendas, strategies, and defenses.
To say, “I want the benefits of spirituality, community, and love, while leaving my present ego intact,” is like saying, “I want to preserve my desires, opinions, and judgments just as they are, only I do not want to have to suffer because of them.”
Choose one of the following tasks and keep a journal about your experience living this question.
In what ways is my spiritual work subtly supporting my egoism? Where and how does it contribute to ego-satisfaction, separation, or self-importance. And how can I make a daily effort to dissolve or lessen this?
How does my ego overstep its rights in relation to other people? What is my most characteristic form of egoism or selfishness? And how can I make a daily effort to dissolve or lessen this?
Painting: ‘Transparent Soul’ by Soo K Chang