In the book on Interspirituality I've been sharing lately - "The New Monasticism" by Rory McEntee and Adam Bucko - there is a lot of discussion about the dangers of mere ego-gratification when one is crafting one's own unique spiritual path. For example, when the authors talked to Andrew Harvey, who has long been traveling an interspiritual path of universal mysticism, Harvey advised:
"I think it's so important what you're doing. You're offering people a permission to listen to their unique hearts. But, there is a danger in this offering of permission. And that is that it is very difficult often to tell the difference between the authentic guidance of the heart and your own confused desires. So unless you develop a deep discernment and have some inner experience of the difference between the you that is driven by ego and the you that arises in spaciousness and love when you are free from ego, it's going to be hard to hear what your true voice is saying."
This, of course, is precisely one of the pitfalls of much modern pop spirituality, which tempts us to use "The Law of Attraction" and an emphasis on "manifesting" what one desires in service of the constricted ego-self rather than for the sake of the vast and universal Divine Self which is seeking to become conscious in and through the world. It is for this reason that the authors consistently recommend having a spiritual director or mentor - especially one who engaged in an initial training in one of the classical mystical traditions - as a means of circumventing these egoic roadblocks. Thus, McEntee and Bucko explain: "This is one reason we put such a foundational emphasis on solid mentorship as one becomes established on a path. Mature spiritual mentors can watch over us and safeguard us from many of the dangers on the path. Through mentorship one is able to protect oneself from simply latching on to different spiritual practices that flatter the ego while avoiding those that bring a sense of danger - even death - to the ego's many layers."
"This also requires that our spiritual elders take seriously this new [interspiritual] way. They must not feel that one has to fully enter into or commit to THEIR tradition [or path] in order to receive mentorship. In this way they can pass on the lived experience of where their tradition or path has taken them, rather than focusing on theological or dogmatic formulations. Thus they can pass down their wisdom and traditions in such a way that it allows questions, insights, and revelations from a new generation to be present, creating spaciousness for the synergistic work of the Spirit, allowing new spiritual intuitions to dawn, and facilitating novel articulations of timeless truths."
When I give spiritual direction, I work consistently to help a person discern precisely where the Spirit is ALREADY leading them. Then I recommend a lifestyle and set of practices which will foster and advance the seeker's unique development, while helping them at the same time to gradually dismantle the constricted ego-self that is the cause of so much suffering.
Photo: Sagebrush and rocks, Vedauwoo Recreation Area, Medicine Bow National Forest, WY, January 13, 2016
Please visit: http://www.resourcesforspiritualgrowth.com/
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Stephen Hatch, M.A. is a spiritual teacher and photographer from Fort Collins, Colorado. His approach is contemplative, inter-spiritual, and Earth-based.