The ego is not something to be ashamed by but aware of. We all have an ego: the aspect of ourselves that deals with self-image, self-esteem and self-importance. The ego deals with the ‘self’, all of the things we put after the statement ‘I am’.
It’s common to see the ego talked about with negative connotations, and we can see from the definition about why this might be. We can over-identify with the ego and become arrogant, unaware and selfish.
However there is another side to the ego that isn’t talked about as much. The ego is an essential part of human life, it develops over the course of our childhood (and further into adulthood) as we figure out our place in the world.
The ego allows us to differentiate between ourselves and others – this can be a positive thing. Knowing who and what we are is how we navigate everyday life. Imagine not knowing what your name was, your nationality, your age, your values and morals. It would be impossible to get through the day.
With that being said, I want to explore the concept of the ‘spiritual ego’. This might sound like a contradiction in terms, and on some level it is, but it is where the ego co-opts our spiritual awareness, and uses it as just another way to put ourselves above others.
The spiritual ego is a very common experience at the beginning stages of our spiritual journey, but can also be seen at any stage. You suddenly come to this new awareness, this higher awareness if you will, and want to tell everyone about it.
It’s understandable to want to shake people awake when you feel you have access to important information that they do not. You suddenly see the illusion, lies and deceit in the world and want to make everyone aware.
However this is not our place. We can teach people, we can help them, we can plant seeds, but awakening is something that each individual must chose for themselves. No amount of lecturing is going to force someone awake.
The spiritual ego is essentially what happens when we begin to see ourselves as distinctly different, unapproachable or lesser than because we see ourselves as spiritual aware. In an effort to protect our spiritual beliefs, separating ourselves from other people.
Spiritual ego often comes about because we do not have a grounded spiritual practice. We don’t know how to ground into the body, protect our energy or face negative experiences and emotions when they do come up.
We take on the spiritual label but throw our human label away (notice that both are labels).
There are two main aspects of the spiritual ego that I’ve identified which tie into each other: a sense of superiority, and a lack of empathy.
Sense of Superiority
The first aspect of the spiritual ego (that I’ve identified) is a sense of superiority, specifically the idea that being ‘spiritual’ means you are above other people. The world is not divided into awake and sleeping people, consciousness is not as easy to categorize like that.
As people who consider ourselves spiritual there is a tendency to define ourselves in contrast to others. To an extent this is understandable, using labels is part of the human experience and finding groups that we resonate with is important.
However, most of the time we cannot tell someone’s level of consciousness just by looking at them or even observing their behaviors. Not everyone is going to fit into the spiritual archetypes we have in mind. And many others can be highly aware without ever needing to go down a defined spiritual path.
Some of the most aware people I know don’t consider themselves spiritual. But they are the strangers, the parents and the teachers who go about their day lifting people up and spreading awareness in their own ways.
We might believe we are better than others because we possess certain knowledge they do not. We might believe we are better than those who don’t meditate, do yoga or pray. We might believe we are better than those we don’t perceive as conscious.
Lack of Empathy
The second key aspect of the spiritual ego is a lack of empathy. It’s a me or them mentality.
We might shame those who are struggling for their ‘low vibration’, see ourselves above the world’s problems or feel distain having to interact with ‘unspiritual’ people on a daily basis.
This lack of empathy often manifests as a lack of responsibility aswell. When someone with a strong spiritual ego wrongs someone, they can easily utilize spiritual concepts and terminology to avoid all responsibility.
Rather than admitting their mistakes, being self-aware or apologizing – everything can be labelled a projection or lack of awareness. Perceiving yourself at a higher level means you are above criticism, wrongdoing or accountability.
The spiritual ego can also manifest more broadly in the form of spiritual bypassing or escapism. This is where we consider the spiritual above the physical, or even that these are two completely separate levels of being.
Facing the Spiritual Ego
Ego is a tricky thing, it often operates in insidious ways. And so, in writing this article I acknowledge there will always be an aspect of ego coming through – but that is ok. We all have an ego that we carry around with us day to day.
We can’t escape the ego or get rid of the ego, but we can become more aware of the ego and not allow it to rule our lives. On another level, the ego operates as a way to keep us safe. It allows us to know where we begin and another person ends.
The spiritual ego was something I’ve had to confront along the spiritual path…and of course still do. Rather than necessarily bashing the ego, or pointing fingers, facing the spiritual ego and ego at large is coming to peace with how it inevitably manifests along our path.
You can face the spiritual ego with some simple questions:
- In what way does my spiritual practice become egotistical?
- Where does my spirituality separate me from my fellow humans?
- How does the ‘spiritual’ label help or hinder me?
- How do I use my spirituality to bypass mine/other people’s humanity?
The ultimate goal of ego work isn’t to eliminate your ego, but rather to better integrate it as part of your whole. This is also the essence of shadow and inner child work. In coming to integrate the ego, it’s common to find that you feel even more connected to your spirit.
When you don’t feel the need to separate yourself based on your spirituality, gaining a deeper sense of oneness and connectivity with all.
The ego gets in the way a lot of the time. The ego likes to tell stories and create tension and separation where there isn’t any. Awakening is realizing this, and practicing observation rather than judgement when it happens.
If you would like one-on-one guidance or advice arrange a reading with me.