Although fulfilling, the spiritual journey can be challenging. With numerous yet unnoticeable traps, people can easily be hindered from true enlightenment and instead grow in spiritual materialism.
“The ego loves to wait in ambush to appropriate spirituality for its survival and gain.”
– Chogyam Trungpa
People’s spirituality is often likened to a flower or a tree they plant in their hearts. Everything starts as a seedling, a little matter awaiting to be taken care of and nurtured. Cultivating this seedling begins when people become more welcoming and proactive toward their spiritual journey. They nurture this plant by showering it with adequate and appropriate spiritual perspectives and beliefs, carefully treading so they avoid trampling over it.
However, often, within every garden, sprouts weeds, hindering it from growing healthily and beautifully – a metaphor that’s also observed in humans’ journeys.
Often, people find themselves as their biggest enemies with their choices and vices. Ironically, while the person is the most vital element in the spiritual journey, they may also bring it down. This happens when they end up mistaking their genuine needs for temporary and materialistic wants, mistaking what they need to achieve spiritual enlightenment with what their egos want for spiritual materialism and superiority. After all, the ego plays a significant role in different aspects of life development; it can be confusing to develop it without abusing it for another.
The Ego’s Role in Spirituality
In discussions of spiritualism, people typically associate it with selflessness and the total baring of one’s self toward vulnerability for God. As a result, people have misconceptions about what ego is and where it lies. They end up having a love-hate relationship with it and its needs, often leading to a lack of comprehension about its vital role in people’s spiritual journey.
The ego gives people to welcome individuality, molding them to embrace their unique gifts, thus fulfilling their life purpose. With it, everybody will find it easier to look within themselves and acknowledge their importance and role. Yet, in its negative, the ego fools people into forming unhealthy attachments to themselves, their thoughts, and their emotions, forcing them to think they’re separate from God and others. This leads to suffering from soul darkness and losing one’s purpose.
Hence, the ego helps people achieve anything they desire by highlighting their strengths and teaching them how to maximize those. It is their guide and aid, plotting their path toward their goals. But life is complicated, and often in developing their ego to better their esteem, people may instead strengthen their egocentricity.
Theoretically, people know vanity, self-centeredness, and pride are evident taps for the soul. However, if people have yet to complete spiritual lessons and develop a profound understanding of their spiritual journey, it may be easy to fall into them and practice spiritual materialism.
The Deceptive Spiritual Materialism
Author Chet Shupe has mentioned it in several of his materials. The world can and has supplied people with things they don’t need, confusing genuine happiness with materialistic perspectives. On the spiritual level, the world develops and progresses, changing human nature and rendering them spiritually untrustworthy. The world has shaped people into desiring things deemed necessary for survival but is, in reality, “traps” for genuine spiritualism.
Spiritual materialism encompasses these spiritual traps and mistakes people commit.
Humans are humans, susceptible to making mistakes. But in pursuing spirituality, when people fall into the traps of ego-building and materialism, this creates confusion, countering spiritual growth. Spiritual materialism means using spirituality to feed into one’s egotistical needs. Instead of genuine spiritual healing and the alignment of people’s purpose and identity, they’re thrust into endless materialistic desires, heightening suffering. When spirituality helps people achieve freedom from suffering and pain, spiritual materialism cages them with it.
This happens when the ego has been constantly reinforced and inflated instead of keeping it in control. In the spiritual journey, the ego can be like a wolf in sheep’s clothing. Keeping it controlled is the only way to avoid falling trapped into its adversity.