Ego-Ridden, Ersatz Spirituality

I’ve shared here several times that Richard Rohr steal’s my thoughts. He continues to do that and is rich and famous and I am still poor and unknown. Life is just not fair! In today’s email he again chides Christians for their “dualistic” thinking and points out how the ego is hard at work in this process. It is really unnerving to realize that something as personal as one’s faith can be little more than an ego function, an escape from life, and not the expression of the Divine that one purports it to be. And that is what I’ve had to learn and am continuing to learn about my own faith. But when this truth began to sink in, the first faint glimmer of light dawned in my soul allowing me to see the darkness in which I lived. And I still live in this “darkness” and will always do so even as that “glimmer of Light” brightens each day. For, I now know…and feel…more clearly what the Apostle Paul meant when he declared that “we see through a glass ‘darkly'”.

Let me explain just one facet of the ego’s presence in the spirituality of my early life. One of the first things I learned as a child was the distinction of “saved” vs “unsaved”, a distinction which paralleled the infinite variety of other distinctions I was learning as my innocent world was being carved up into various categories. And, of course at some point I learned that I could recite the correct syllogism, the magical words, and presto I would join the club of “the saved.” This bifurcation of the world followed me through the first half of my life as I hid behind the facade of being “saved” and from that subjective prison lived and felt separate from the whole world, radically disconnected. Now, I didn’t know about this disconnection as I participated in a “saved” culture which daily reassured me that I was “one of them” because I spoke the right language and lived the right life…at least out in public! However, there was always unrest in my soul, an unrest which in the middle of my life began to grow and became a veritable tumult which is now blossoming fully in my life. But this “tumult” is merely the experience of life unfolding in my heart as it opens up and becomes, “filled with penetrable stuff” as Shakespeare once put it.

Rohr presents spirituality as a “personal” phenomena, not an ideology. Spirituality is not a mind-set or a template through which we are to view the world as “out there” and needing to be made like me. Spirituality is the process of letting boundaries down and seeing the connection between “me and thee” and between the whole of God’s creation. And the process never ends. We never “get it” as there is nothing to “get”. It is a process. “Saved” and “unsaved”???? Well, the concept does exist in Christianity and most religions have some way of setting themselves apart and reassuring its followers that they are “special.” I now feel that the only “saving” I am responsible for is the saving of my own soul…a life long process which always involves relationships with other people…and which the Apostle Paul had in mind when he instructed us to “work out our own salvation with fear and trembling.” This “fear and trembling” is the tumult I alluded to earlier.

Here is Rohr’s observations for today:

Resistance to Change
Friday, March 21, 2014

Sadly, the mind trapped inside of polarity thinking is not open to change. How else can we explain the obvious avoidance of so many of Jesus’ major teachings within the Christian churches? Jesus’ direct and clear teachings on issues such as nonviolence; a simple lifestyle; love of the poor and our enemies; forgiveness, inclusivity, and mercy; and not seeking status, power, perks, or possessions have all been overwhelmingly ignored throughout history by mainline Christian churches, even those who so proudly call themselves orthodox or biblical.

This avoidance defies explanation until we understand how dualistic thinking protects and pads the ego and its fear of change. Notice that the things we Christians have largely ignored require actual change to ourselves. The things we emphasized instead were usually intellectual beliefs or moral superiority stances that asked almost nothing of us—but compliance from others: the divinity of Christ, the virgin birth, the atonement theory, and beliefs about reproduction and sex. After a while, you start to recognize the underlying bias that is at work. The ego diverts your attention from anything that would ask you to change, to righteous causes that invariably ask others to change. 1 Such issues give you a sense of moral high ground without costing you anything (e.g., celibate priests who make abortion the only sin). Sounds like an ego game to me.

Whole people see and create wholeness wherever they go. Split people split up everything and everybody else. By the second half of our lives, we are meant to see in wholes and no longer just in parts.
1. Adapted from The Naked Now: Learning to See as the Mystics See, p. 94
2. Adapted from Falling Upward: A Spirituality for the Two Halves of Life,
p. 151


One thought on “Ego-Ridden, Ersatz Spirituality

  1. Anne-Marie

    Thank-you very much. It is so good to be going on a similar journey. I don’t know if Richard Rohr is rich though…I think he gives everything back to his mission, to proclaim the gospel. Please keep up your writing. I am so pleased to get it.



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