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Thursday, May 6, 2010

The Battlefields of the Mind

In yesterday’s post about giving power away to group consensus, I mentioned the concept of “spiritual maturity”. Von made a comment about it, which suggests that he was unclear about what I meant by that term. So today I am going to clarify this issue, which is absolutely vital for the futures of the human species, as I see things. Spiritual maturity does not mean “spiritual evolution”, but is more akin to psychological maturity. Such maturity is not dependent upon one’s worldview. An atheist could have a high level of spiritual maturity, whole a spiritually-inclined or religious person might have a low level of spiritual maturity. Many of the spiritual” folks I have met over the years have had a low level of spiritual maturity. 

The essence of spiritual maturity is the capacity to assume responsibility for one’s thoughts and mental projections. This in turn is dependent upon the capacity of the individual to know at a deep level that the world of thought is ultimately an illusion. And to grasp this fully, the person has to develop the right relationship with ego. The current typical level of spiritual maturity on this planet is around four percent of capacity.
The reason it is so low is that the vast majority of human beings are ensnared in the world of thought and its projections. In other words, the ego dominates the personality. Under these circumstances, it is impossible for the average person to have a high level of spiritual maturity, because the ego sees itself as separate, and constantly attempts to manipulate and control circumstances. What inevitably proceeds is "drama", as the ego assumes its favourite roles of victim, persecutor, or rescuer. When it  doesn’t get what it wants, the ego typically  goes into blame and anger. It does not know its own power, and sees the object of desire as containing that power. The child wants the toy, and sees the toy as the key to its fulfillment. When the toy is taken away, it cries and screams. 

The reason why many spiritual philosophies indirectly sabotage spiritual evolution, is because they reinforce the stranglehold of the ego. Many of the philosophies and writings surrounding the law of attraction do exactly this. They fail to address the function of the ego, and the role of desire in cementing the ego’s control over the person. Instead, they elevate desire to a kind of spiritual status, as an end in itself. It’s the manifestation of the car, the house, the job, the relationship that becomes key, not developing the right relationship with self.

My teacher from New Zealand, Jessica, was betrayed by one of her own students, who was supposedly on a spiritual journey. Let's call the woman Lilly. Lilly attended Jessica’s classes, and may have had some private one-on-one sessions with her (but I am not certain about the latter). Jessica’s style was very direct. She was a tell-it-like-it-is teacher, and wasn’t afraid to confront people when the situation demanded it. By whatever process, Lilly did not like what Jessica was teaching. Lilly got a small handful of people together to try to bring Jessica down. 

In a certain sense, she succeeded. Lilly went to a local newspaper, and got a journalist to run a muck-raking, double-page story about Jessica, which eventually ran in the Sunday edition. I read the story, and I can assure you that it was ridiculous. The  data dragged up by the journalist included such sensational facts as that Jessica had changed her name (as many spiritual teachers, including myself have done). Only two people who even knew Jessica were quoted in the story, and one of them was uncritical of her. The word “cult’ still managed to find its way into the headline, and a criminal-like mugshot of Jessica was included. The whole thing was a total beat-up. 

Still, the affair left Jessica rather traumatised, and understandably so. She decided to leave New Zealand. 

This sad scenario is a classic case of spiritual immaturity. Lillywas unable to “own” the consciousness that Jessica presented to her. Instead of integrating it, she went on the attack to destroy the messenger. This is precisely what happens, to a lesser degree, with every single argument which occurs on the planet, whether personal or intellectual in nature. We either try to attack the message, or the messenger. The ego, when it sees that the form (illusion) it has created to sustain itself is threatened, seeks to eliminate the source of the threat.Thus beyond the surface of just about all scientific and spiritual debates, there is a secondary level, where egos are attempting to control, disempower and destroy. In the classic ongoing debate on the Precambrian explosion between paleontologist Stephen J. Gould and zoologist Richard Dawkins, there existed a barely conscious agenda for control and power at the level of ego. 

Or take a look at the standard skeptics versus proponents sledge-hammer contest on Michael Prescott’s blog. In this week's episode, number 23996 in the series, our friendly debaters go for the throat as they "debate" the validity of James Randi's one million dollar psi challenge.
James Randi said before that he will always have a way out also let's not forget he also is a liar misinteprets everything that his worldview can't handle. He is one miserable small old man. 
congratulations! on writing the biggest load of crap on the web today, if i could move things with my mind or talk to the dead, i would have randi's million in a moment, whatever the rules,but then i can't can i?, but then no-one can , can they?. isn't THAT the reason he still has it?!
While knowledge does progress in this fashion, the entire process actually retards deep insight, as well as the capacity for novel perception (i.e. seeing the situation from a different perspective) because the ego becomes so locked into attacking and defending, that it can no longer see the big picture. 

Yet the greatest price to pay for this confrontational binary thinking, is that all chance is lost to develop spiritual maturity, as well as a deeper insight into the workings of the mind; and to develop the right relationship with ego. This in turn retards Integrated Intelligence, because developing a softer and more receptive attitude is key to the mystical ways of knowing inherent in the application of Integrated Intelligence.

As William Wordsworth lamented in "The Tables Turned":
Sweet is the lore which Nature brings; 
Our meddling intellect 
Mis-shapes the beauteous forms of things:-- 
We murder to dissect.
It is dissection (control and power) which lies at the heart of western science and philosophy. Western confrontational binary thinking is a function of a relatively low level of spiritual maturity. This is likely to remain so, as long as our education systems, media and the internet continue to valorise intellectual conflict, and fail to value receptivity and equanimity.

Spiritual maturity is not dependent upon genetic evolution. It is more dependent upon cultural evolution. When enough governments decide to implement policies which value and encourage gentle knowing in our education systems, then a great evolutionary leap will be possible for humanity. Till then we will need to continue to weave and duck the crossfire of the battlefields of the modern mind, and its endless need for control and power, attack and defense. 



  1. Excellent and concise analysis of the unacknowledged dilemma of rationalist thought - but I wondered about "governments decid[ing] to implement policies which value and encourage gentle knowing in our education systems".

    Isn't rather the case that cultural evolution is primarily a bottom-up, individual process. Even if governments and bureaucracies appear to be more conscious than the people composing them or electing them (cf. the abolition of the death penalty on most Western countries), it's a top-down, elitist action which doesn't necessarily entail any growth in consciousness on the part of the general public.

    Would you agree?

  2. The Many Faces of Ego!

    Excellent article!

  3. Welcome to 22c+, Beatrice. You have the same name as my mother, BTW!

  4. Hi Simon,

    It's a good point. Maybe such evolution is bottom-up, or rather, better left to be bottom up. Frank Furedi, in his book "Wasted: Why Education Isn't Educating", is quite scathing of recent attempts to introduce emotional intelligence (closely related to spiritual maturity) into schools. He lumps this with Gardner's multiple intelligences as attempts to turn school into healing organisations. He says these attempts have failed badly, and schools should not serve that function of "healing". I'm not sure I entirely agree with him, but the question of how to actually implement this stuff into curricula is a real problem. There's a bit of a Catch-22. Most kids don't value what they are taught at school, and many lack intellectual and emotional maturity (as you'd expect, being kids). And before you can do stuff like emotional intelligence, you need to have at least a basic level of EQ to begin with!


  5. EQ being the most important aspect of change.

  6. Very good post...Unfortunate about the Jessica and Lilly fallout. It was a very immature situation, but to me, by both this Lilly woman and Jessica. Both didn't own up to the consciousness presented to them and so 'equally' annihilated or at least attacked the other. What I want to know is who did Jessica go to as her teacher/guru? Or at least a spiritual counselor or even equal? If there was no inter-guru dialoguing going on, then it is still an immature stage to be at. This is the "main" but not only criticism of teacher/disciple or guru/chela set up; it is not integrated enough, not balanced or whole enough. Too bad for Jessica, I do hope she has learned since then....

  7. Jessica had no gurus. Of course she learned many things from many sources, but she was basically self taught. I don't mean to rank or compare teachers, but Jessica was basically at a level of consciousness where no teacher could really help her, because her perception was so vast. And no, she didn't attack anyone energetically speaking. She didn't project much energy, one of the few people I have ever met who didn't. Much of her karma from previous incarnations was associated with persecution from those who didn't understand what she was doing. The drama with Lilly helped her to integrate much of that energy. As for integral/not integral, I do appreciate Ken Wilber's models (I used some in my PhD thesis), but he is primarily an intellectual. He does not understand energy and consciousness issues in this kind of domain, as he has done no direct work with it. My perception is that Wilber has many of his own energy issues which he has not integrated fully. This is not to denigrate Wilber at all. Almost every spiritual teacher's psyche exists, in part, in shadow energy. Having spent over a decade working with such energy, I can see pretty clearly what they are. One of the problems with Wilber's models is that they presuppose that there is one primary path of consciousness evolution. My perception is that despite his brilliance, there's a lot of things he doesn't understand. BTW, I haven't heard of Jessica for about 12 years. I have no idea where she is.