Monday, January 10, 2011

In the Garden of Spirituality – Alan Lurie


“We are not on earth to guard a museum,
but to cultivate a flowering garden of life.”

– Pope John XXIII


The Wild Reed’s series of reflections on religion and spirituality continues with an excerpt from Rabbi Alan Lurie's January 6, 2011 Huffington Post article "The Allure of Narcissistic Spirituality."

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My acting definition [of spirituality] is, "The experience of a transformative connection." In other words, spirituality is experienced – it is not a concept or construct. It transforms us. It changes how we act, think and feel in all environments. And it is a connection – a profound contact with something and someone outside of our selves.

All three of these components are needed in order for spirituality to occur, but the most essential is that it be a connection – between a person and the Divine, or between one person and another. Spiritual practices are designed to facilitate these connections, and begin with the knowledge that we have two selves: an ego-self and a true-Self. The ego-self is built on our strategy for ensuring that we are physically safe, stemming from our interpretation of the experiences of our lives (primarily our childhood) in which we determined what was required in order to survive. The ego-self may need to impress, dominate or control and sees others as either threats or tools. There is nothing inherently wrong with the ego-self; it is a necessary structure put in place so that we can survive in physical reality. But it is not who we really are, and we can not make a spiritual connection from it. Our true-Self, however, which is often referred to as our soul, contains the very purpose that we incarnated, and is in constant connection with Spirit/Consciousness/Creation/God. It sees others as fellow souls with equally needed purposes, and has compassion for the suffering that comes from the ego-self's attachment to things.

Spiritual practices help us to loosen the grip of the ego-self and to connect to the true-Self, so that we can live purposefully, be of service and participate in love. The central Biblical injunction to "Love your neighbor as yourself" is usually interpreted to mean that we must learn to love others, with the assumption that we already love ourselves. Literally translated, though, this line actually reads, "And you will [in the future tense] love your fellow in the same way that you love yourself." In other words, we will love another to the extent and in the way that we love ourselves. If you are harsh with yourself, you will be harsh with others. If you can not forgive yourself, you can not forgive others. In this way, this line is not a commandment, but is a statement of fact. The truth is that most of us do not love ourselves very well, and consequently we hurt others. This is why spiritual practices so often seek to teach us how to love ourselves, so that we can better love others. Real love naturally flows in two directions.

Spiritual practices becomes narcissistic, though, when the ego-self hijacks the process and assumes that it is the object of self love, becoming enamored of looking in the mirror and claiming that its reflection is the true-Self. Then we loose our way, forgetting that the purpose of learning to love ourselves is to become more open, kind and effective in interactions with others, and instead of opening our hearts with humility and compassion, we assume a position of superiority – exactly what the ego desires for its safety.


Recommended Off-site Link:
Yesterday It Was Spiritual Abuse, Today Spiritual Narcissism. They Go Hand In Hand and Side By Side
– Colleen Kochivar-Baker (Enlightened Catholicism, January 8, 2011).

See also the previous Wild Reed posts:
The Real Crisis
An Offering of Ashes
Beyond Papalism
Roger Haight on the Church We Need
Keeping the Spark Alive: An Interview with Modern-Day Mystic Chuck Lofy

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