The spiritual ego is very sneaky. It hides under the masks of good intentions, higher vibration, spiritual clothes and accessories, awakened, and enlightened perspective. Living in the cage of titles – starseeds, lightworkers, twin flames, one of the 144,000 – makes us feel special and important. And if we are not mindful, it can wreak total destruction not just in our lives but also can mislead us from our spiritual path.
So what is spiritual ego really? How to recognize its traps and stay committed to your spiritual journey? What can you do to take your ego under control? Read on!
What Is Ego?
The ego is the dual perception of the world, where “I” and “mine” are opposed to “not me” and “not mine”.
In Sufism, the ego is the driving force and will of a person, which makes possible the confrontation of the unbridled animal nature and the Divine principles. If the ego is polluted, then the person follows his desires, but if it is purified, then the path to God opens. Sufi ideology calls not to eradicate the ego, but to bring it under control with the help of divine instructions.
In Bhakti yoga and Hinduism, the ego is seen as a distorted perception of the world. And the ego itself is not evil, but it can be correctly or incorrectly interpreted. The Bhakti yoga practitioner, in order to overcome delusion, connects with the Supreme through prayers and recitation of mantras, gaining a clear vision of both himself and everything around him.
The Bhagavad Gita speaks of the ego as the basis of the personality, which should not be fought, but should be understood and interpreted correctly – identifying the “I” not with the mortal body, but with the eternal soul, that is, to achieve the realization of the true ego. Where the true ego prevails, there is goodness. Such a person is calm and self-sufficient, full of a sense of satisfaction, selflessness, and kindness. Where false ego prevails, there is ignorance and misery, a constant feeling of dissatisfaction, discontent, and a desire to have more.
According to Kabbalah, ego and egoism are given at birth. As a result, instead of feeling the divine and eternal, man feels his desires. The concept of egoism and desire in Kabbalah are identical. To overcome the ego and become one with the Creator again, people must achieve spiritual growth that can last for many lifetimes. Layer by layer, by removing the shackles of the ego and opening the capacity for spiritual feeling, a person approaches his natural state, in which he was before he descended into the world.
In Buddhism, the ego – Ahamkara – is considered the source of all concepts and criteria for evaluating the existing world. It is the ego that tries to make everything look, shape, mean, evaluate, and frame. And all for the sake of maintaining the existence of this world and the principle of “I am”. These processes of assessment and definitions give rise to karma – cause-and-effect relationship between events. The source of the ego is ignorance, or Avidya in Sanskrit. Avidya refers to ignorance or misconceptions about the nature of metaphysical reality. It is the root cause of Dukkha (suffering, pain, unsatisfactoriness), and asserted as the first link, in Buddhist phenomenology, of a process that leads to repeated birth. Thus, according to Buddhism, the ego is the main source of suffering and lack of freedom.
Ahamkara (ego) does not act alone, but in conjunction with the mind (Manas), the emotive side of mind (Citta), and intuition (Buddhi). Buddhi, or pure vision, is aware of events and phenomena as they are, but it does not react to them in any way, just tracking the fact of their existence. Manas receives information, analyzes it, and makes a conclusion. Citta gives an assessment of the result obtained and develop liking or disliking, approval, or censure. The ego includes these judgments in its sphere of activity and makes them a part of our life.
Buddhism as a teaching aims to eradicate the ego through meditation and controlling the activity of the mind. By purifying one’s perception of reality, one leaves only the unclouded Buddhi; the illusion of the reality of the world becomes shaky, as does the concept of the ego.
Ego’s Location In The Chakras
There are different manifestations of ego based on what chakra it’s located in.
Muladhara (Root) Chakra
When the ego is fed by the energy of the Root chakra, it binds a person to dominance at the expense of material security. Such people are very controlling and identify those who are financially dependent on them with things and consider it legitimate to dispose of their lives at their own discretion. When you see parents who control the lives of their already adult children, you are witnessing a clear example of the Muladhara oriented ego.
Svadhisthana (Sacral) Chakra
The Svadhisthana oriented ego makes people obsessed with sex and their appearance. They strive to be overly sexually attractive and seduce as many partners as possible. They see sex as a proof of self-value.
Manipura (Solar Plexus) Chakra
The Manipura oriented ego tends to suppress others with rough pressure, wanting to weaken their will. Such people use their energy and charisma to assert themselves and impose their opinions. These people wear the image of impudent and bold, sneaks and boors.
Anahata (Heart) Chakra
The Anahata oriented ego craves public adoration as an idol. These people tend to be at the center of everyone’s attention. Such people are very jealous. They are legends in their own minds though in fact they are just faking to look bigger than they are.
Vishuddha (Throat) Chakra
The Vishuddha oriented ego boasts of its intelligence. These people like to trick others and lie a lot. They are dodgers and insidious schemers.
What Is Spiritual Ego?
EGO = Eliminating God Out. The moment you divorce yourself from the divine, you marry the ego.
As we evolve spiritually, we awaken from soul darkness and start moving away from body-centered ego-consciousness. Instead of identifying as mere physical bodies that are born and die, we begin to see ourselves as spiritual beings having a human experience. Whether through yoga, meditation, spiritual book studies, prayer, or attending spiritual workshops, we reach a new higher-level awareness. This newfound awareness can be so exciting and empowering that it deludes us into thinking that our life lessons are complete and we are free from our egos. At this stage of spiritual development, we intellectually understand that pride, vanity, egoism, and self-centeredness don’t serve the evolution of our souls, but haven’t completed enough spiritual lessons yet to avoid falling into these traps again and again.
Most of us have a delusional idea that the spiritual path is always steady and secure. It is only later that we begin to realize that the spiritual path is very slippery and you have to maintain balance and constant awareness not to fall into the old “traps”. The thing is that the more we learn theoretically about spirituality without applying it to our everyday lives, the more likely we develop the spiritual ego in our beliefs. Like a wolf in sheep’s clothing, the spiritual ego can hide behind judgment, spiritual dogma, or even a false sense of moral superiority over others. And this could be very dangerous for our spiritual development since it can blind us and prevent us from doing the necessary deeper spiritual work we need for inner growth and self-healing.
Spiritual Ego Traps
Based on my own experience, introspection, and studying people’s behavior, I came up with this list of the most common spiritual ego traps.
Trap #1: Judging
If you only knew how many times I fell into this trap! Directly or indirectly I kept judging others for being “less awakened,” less “spiritually advanced”, less evolved than… me… I judged people for being “asleep,” “unconscious”, “low vibe”, and “asleep”. I could easily label people as “Matrix” individuals and look down on them without even recognizing it.
By interacting with people from different spiritual groups, sadly I started believing that some people are “chosen” and others are not. Now I can recognize that this belief made me look down on others who are newer on their spiritual path.
It took me quite a few life lessons to realize that the cause of my judgment was hidden in a sense of uncertainty about my own faith. Eventually, I realized that my focus should be on developing my faith through spiritual practice; and not on the “vibe” and the level of development of people around me.
Trap #2: Dogmatic Beliefs
“Black and white” mentality gets us into spiritual debates with others. This way of seeing things is projected by our spiritual ego that strives for separation. If you find yourself trying to convince somebody to “get” the truth about your spiritual beliefs, it’s probably your spiritual ego, not your spirit, doing the talking.
When you have a desire to prove your point about some of your spiritual beliefs, remind yourself of a wise Lao Tzu saying, “He who knows does not speak. He who speaks does not know.”
Trap #3: “Messiah Complex”
This is another common trap that many spiritual seekers fall into. Do you think it’s up to you to save the world or others? If so, you may have a Messiah complex, one of the most pernicious forms of spiritual arrogance.
There is nothing wrong with helping others. However, it is important to remember that as human beings we are neither omniscient, omnipresent nor omnipotent: only God is. Therefore, we should always remind ourselves to surrender to the will of a higher power in our lives. Keep in mind that there is always a master plan unfolding beyond our control and understanding.
Trap #4: The Need Of Being “Special”
The biggest spiritual ego trap is the desire to be special which can be expressed in many different self-aggrandizement ways, like:
- Claiming to have “special access” to spirit guides, Ascended Masters, angels, spirits, etc.;
- Claiming to be the reincarnation of a guru, superior being, a famous spiritual historical figure, etc.;
- Claiming to figure out all the world mysteries, conspiracy theories, governments’ secrets, etc.;
- Claiming access to special and exclusive spiritual knowledge that others can’t access.
Do you really need to prove your specialness by using different titles (like lightworker, Starseed, etc.), the memories (or fantasies) about your past incarnations, etc.?
What Can We Do With Ego?
#1: Don’t Try To Fight It
The spiritual ego is tricky. It’s hard to see and therefore it’s hard to control. Buddhist say that in the war of ego the loser always wins. Which makes complete sense to me. The second you realized you overcame your ego, you have fallen into its trap. Therefore, the best way you can deal with your ego is by observing it. It is by observing that you can learn how to take control of your ego.
#2: Stay Humble
By perceiving the divine in all of your endeavors, you will always stay humble. The problem arises when you disconnect from the divine under the false pretense that you alone are ruling the business of life. I taught myself to always remember that it is not me who’s achieving success in life, it is not me who’s giving Reiki healing to people, it is not me who’s helping people, but God by using me as his tool. This mindset helped me to remove “I”, “Me”, and “Mine” from my service. Whatever I do, I keep in mind that I’m only the tool, and it helps me to stay humble. Also, it saves me from the “Messiah Complex”.
#3: Stop Judging
Ego judges and punishes. Love forgives and heals.
Think about what makes you judge. Most likely it’s your self-judgment and dissatisfaction with yourself or your life. Sometimes how you see something is more important than what you see. Pay attention to where your judgments are coming from and “who” is doing the judging. Shift your awareness to a loving discernment and free yourself of negativity.
#4: Stop Complaining
“Complaining is one of the ego’s favorite strategies for strengthening itself.”Eckhart Tolle
Complaining is voicing a negative opinion about a situation. Eckhart Tolle in A New Earth puts it this way: “Complaining is not to be confused with informing someone of a mistake or deficiency so that it can be put right. And to refrain from complaining doesn’t necessarily mean putting up with bad quality or behavior. There is no ego in telling the waiter your soup is cold and needs to be heated up — if you stick to the facts, which are always neutral. ‘How dare you serve me cold soup…?’ That’s complaining.”
#5: Speak Less Than You Know; Have More Than You Show
There is no need to tell every person you meet about your “gifts” and show how spiritually advanced you are. Learn to listen instead. By listening you will learn more than by talking. But listen not to reply but to hear!
The Bottom Line
Always remember that the spiritual ego is not who you really are; it is your self-image, it is your spiritual mask, it is the role you are playing in the spiritual community. Your “spiritual mask” thrives on approval. It wants control, and it is sustained by power because it lives in fear. Let go of this fear. Allow yourself to be free from any judgment, including self-judgment. There is nothing wrong with making mistakes, or to act “not spiritual”. You don’t have to be perfectly spiritual all the time and have an answer to any question. Stay humble and you will find blissful peace in the freedom from your spiritual ego.
Main photo credit: JP Sears