Anyone can fall into this trap: Thinking you are better than the other. You and I both. Especially if you’re in a leadership position in government, politics, religion, business, or if you’re a VIP, but also if you’re a manager, spiritual teacher, coach, trainer or guru. I see it everywhere, including in myself.
Where does this come from? How do you recognize it? What are the effects, and how do you get past it? What if you have to deal with someone else who has succumbed to it? How do you deal with that? And how do you make a truly equal heart-connection that causes the world around you to become a better place, at work and in your private life?
It’s time to lift this veil of haughtiness: To allow real love and peace to flourish more. In small and large circles alike.
It is said that the civilization of Atlantis fell because of the haughtiness of a few who wanted to create ‘a world based in advanced knowledge and power.’ Haughtiness came before a fall, and today we find our world standing at the exact same threshold. From antiquity until today, people have been falling for it. As it was with the Pharaos of Egypt and Roman Emperors, it is with the government and political leaders of today. But equally so on a smaller scale with VIP’s, directors, managers, spiritual teachers, coaches and trainers of today. Inside your own circle.
Publicly, or more commonly in secret, you may see yourself as exceptional and divinely chosen. You have ‘fallen upwards,’ and your haughtiness is a hidden force that leads you, today’s Fall of Atlantis. You are unknowingly living or working from a spiritual ego, without being conscious of it.
If spiritual ego is leading you without you being aware of it, you will use your knowledge, abilities or language to demonstrate that you are ‘above the other’, or ‘more advanced’ in your spiritual development than others. Or, that you’re more significant than the other. This has nothing to do with spirit, instead it is just your ego, elevating itself above the other. Because spirit, or universal consciousness and unconditional love, knows no hierarchy.
“Spirit knows no hierarchy”
Why is it that people have been falling into this ego-trap for centuries to begin with? The desire for recognition, appreciation, inclusion, approval, being special, attention and love is universal. Sometimes, the lack of some of these things in the past has been so great that overcompensation enters the picture. Before you know it, the spiritual ego is in charge of your activities, often without your knowledge. It doesn’t make a lick of difference whether you are highly or less educated, have lots of experience or none. It can happen to anyone. It creates dictators and know-it-alls.
How do you recognize today’s Fall of Atlantis? A few concrete indicators will demonstrate.
Some people think they are the chosen few, and use this argument to place themselves above others. Roman Emperors thought themselves to be demigods. Some government leaders today are of the opinion that they have an exceptional divine gift and mission, even if that means a war must be fought over it, all the way up to so-called ‘holy wars.’
But you can also see this phenomenon occurring on a smaller scale sometimes with (spiritual) teachers, coaches and trainers. For example, I was recently baffled by what I was reading about the spiritual arrogance of some who claim: ‘my book isn’t a book, because it transcends all traditional literature.’ Another said: ‘my book is the Bible of coaching.’ And if you package it just right and use the word ‘God’ in the title of all your correspondence, you’re guaranteed commercial success. Because those in need of help are always around, especially in these times, when religions often can’t provide fulfillment in life.
For government and political leaders it is often no longer about content, justice and equality but instead it’s about the ego seeking elevation in a quest for recognition and specialness. In the Dutch cabinet, for example, the egos are boiling over and we don’t even know where to go from here. Many government leaders keep increasing their own sphere of influence and even have their powers written into laws or even the constitution. From their greater position of power they force their will onto others, and punish them if they don’t comply. Such as banning a religion that doesn’t stroke with ‘their own’ faith. Like a coaching client of mine who was beaten to a pulp by his fundamentalist evangelical father for many years. Or getting the death penalty in Iran for not properly wearing your burka. None of these things speak to real love, and they lead to a regression in society.
It certainly seems like some spiritual teachers and gurus are freed from their spiritual egos, because they preach about peace, love and truth, while they are also truly inspiring, for example at seminars, conferences, retreats, in their books and through other venues. They use phrases like ‘heart to heart,’ ‘dear angel, are you ready to experience real love; not everyone is ready to experience real love, but you are.’ Before you know it, you feel loved, special or chosen because of what they tell you. It’s spiritual honey that people flock to.
Until suddenly their shadow side, which they repressed because it doesn’t fit with their self-made image of spiritual specialness, becomes visible.
Like my personal experience at a ten-day silent retreat abroad about non-dualism. There was conversation about a field of unconditional love, loving and freedom of judgment. While this was happening, there was a loud concert nearby that was detracting from the silence. The aggravation and judgment poured from the depths of the teachers’ psyches, and the disapproving looks were easy to see all around. No-one is immune to judgments and it’s better to embrace them and deal with them effectively.
I’m ashamed a little to say it happened a moment to me, too. During one of my weeklong ‘Inner Nature’ retreats in the Belgian Ardennes, a participant asked to take a picture of me. In a fraction of a second, I felt flattered by her admiration and fed my ego, my spiritual ego. But fortunately a few moments later I became aware of what I just did to myself, letting myself be made ‘special.’ As if I was ‘more’ than the participant. Yuck! Luckily, I could let it go quickly. But what happens if you need this constant admiration to exist? Before you know it, this stealthy self-satisfaction takes over.
By consistently indicating that another person has less knowledge or fewer abilities than yourself, you elevate yourself above the other. I call it the seesaw-effect. Pushing the other down to end up in a higher place yourself. In that case power and not love has you in a death grip.
You can also emphasize your own successes, power, knowledge, and abilities without acknowledging your own failings and pitfalls. Better to keep those vulnerabilities locked up. Similar to a colleague who indicated that she had lived many lives, was very wise and could be more meaningful than others as an old soul.
If you’ve fallen into the Atlantis-trap, your aim is for a societally elevated leadership position. You don’t use this position as a temporary vehicle to inspire others with truth, justice, equality, or sincere love. No, above all you want to use it to show your own importance to society. Sometimes you choose to sit on a literal throne above others, instead of among people, as I experienced with the authorities at a silent retreat.
The benefits of these (spiritual) ego-authorities are that they can truly inspire you. They speak truths that we are sensitive to, and that we are often looking for. They say something that you agree with but that others are afraid to mention. You feel seen by them. Or, you gain valuable insights that you can really apply in your work or private life. They make you feel like you belong or are special. That’s what makes it so confusing.
But the cons and dangers are lurking below the surface and will come to light sooner or later. If you rely too much on an external authority, you give it power as you abandon your own sovereignty. Before you know it, you no longer know which of your thoughts are your own, versus those of the authority you believe in. A leader in any context can build their own cult just like that, with some of their followers prepared to murder others or themselves for it.
See, acknowledge, and turn it around.
To see, you have to dare to put your ego aside, otherwise you’ll remain in the trap. Look at yourself with 100% honesty and see that you:
“Dare to be a VUP (Very unimportant person)”
Acknowledge that this is happening to you, and that it is entirely your own doing. Your ego will resist the whole time, in order not to lose any ground. The brave authorities and truth-finders among us will dare to take this step.
Turn around your authority from self-gratification to simply being a temporary vehicle for equality, truth of the heart, justice, and love. Without any expectation that another will appreciate and admire you.
Protect yourself against spiritual egos. Remain yourself and never give up your own thoughts and sovereignty. Don’t always accept the teacher to be what they say they are. Follow your own compass and be a follower of yourself. The development of its own independence is one of the tasks facing the soul from the cradle to the grave.
Dare to leave, even if it is socially undesirable, if you are instructed to believe something that you can’t agree with. This is something I did myself during a break at a seminar put on by an organization that saw itself as the kingpin to change the entire world and patted itself on the chest about it. While at the same time they were themselves contributing to continuing the use of fossil fuels.
As the Gnostics said long ago, “Live the God within yourself.” Because from spirit and unconditional love everyone is chosen.
“Everyone is chosen!”
In large as well as small personal circles. By living and working more from universal consciousness, love, or what I call ‘spirit’, instead of from ego. You can find out more about this in my book “Spirited Personal Leadership.” You can view and download a free promo here: https://martinthoolen.com/publicaties/en
Or checkout this course: https://martinthoolen.com/en/service/master-module-persoonlijk-inspirerend-leiderschap/
© 2023: Martin Thoolen
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