If you look up “spirituality” in the dictionary, the definition says, “the quality or state of being concerned with religion or religious matters : the quality or state of being spiritual..” On wikipedia, this is expanded to, “a process of personal transformation, either in accordance with traditional religious ideals, or, increasingly, oriented on subjective experience and psychological growth independently of any specific religious context.” That’s all well and good but what is spirituality really?
Spirituality is about transcending humanity, about transcending the human condition and becoming more. Too often people seem to want to jump over the human part totally and get right into the spiritual side of things. But if spirituality is about transcending the human condition, it can never happen if the human qualities are not embraced, understood and accepted first. All that can really occur without accepting our human qualities (including flaws) is false enlightenment and ego-worship, which are the opposites of true enlightenment. True enlightenment is not about how advanced and enlightened you are compared to everyone else. It’s about understanding your true place in the world. Ego screams, “I!” Spirit whispers, “We.” The ego must be quieted in order to hear the spirit. It cannot be done any other way. And in order to quiet the ego, you must acknowledge it.
Ego is a monumental force in humanity. It is humanity’s greatest power. It is also our greatest weakness. With ego, you can accomplish many earthly things but you can also never achieve spiritual enlightenment. It is your ego which says “I am. I do. I believe. I deserve. I achieved. I matter.” It is very beneficial to us in day to day life but it’s also a box that we are stuck in which forces us to see things only one way and do things only one way. It causes us to feel suffering when we think we have been wronged. People are killed for injuries to the ego. It is a very serious thing and most of it is driven by the need to believe we are special, important and that we matter. Ego causes fear, anxiety, depression and many other things. A malfunctioning ego can be a very serious problem, as you see with narcissists and antisocial personalities, or conversely with low self-esteem, self-destructive behavior and depression.
Spirit is the opposite of this. Ego says, “I matter. I am the most important thing.” Spirit says, “We are all equally valuable and we are all equally worthless.” Human beings often have a problem with this simple truth. Why? Ego. We don’t want to believe we aren’t the most important things in the world. Many of the internal (and external) structures we have created in our society and in the world collapse if this truth is accepted. If we are not the most important things above all else in the world, then many of the things we as humans do become quite ominous and selfish indeed, don’t they?
This is the reason that some people are atheists; they simply cannot even fathom that anything greater than themselves could exist. This type of ego-worship is very detrimental. It closes the mind and it stunts any kind of spiritual growth. In order to hear the spirit, the screeching ego must be quieted. We must learn to think of things in a broader point of view. You are not the center of the universe, you are a thread in a large, interconnected tapestry. This is not a New Age platitude. It is the truth. Science has proven it. In nature, all things are connected through ecosystems and the food chain. There is no “most important part” of a chain or system; all parts are necessary and equally important. Humans are not somehow above this, and we are not so far removed from our furry and feathered brethren as many would like to think.
When ego is allowed to run rampant, the end result is subjugation, violence, torture and murder. Always. You see this very clearly in children before they are taught the responsible and acceptable way to behave in society (and in adults who were never taught). Empathy, generosity and compassion are not innate. They must be learned. And they are easily-forgotten when the ego is injured. However, being able to learn these things as children is our first real experience of conquering the ego.
To acknowledge the ego is to ultimately accept it. We must accept it without judging ourselves before we can transcend it and achieve spiritual enlightenment. This is not easily done but it is very possible. Once this has happened, we can begin to grow beyond it, to experience things in a much more connected way. The consciousness can bloom like a flower once it is set free from the chains of ego — and it does.