Ask: What is meant by "spiritualizing the ego" and why is it undesirable?

What exactly is meant by “spiritualizing the ego”? Does ACIM discuss this? And why is it undesirable?

            What is popularly called “spiritualizing the ego” is called “confusion of levels” in A Course in Miracles. It refers to confusing the seeming-levels of your mind: ego/perception/illusion with God/Knowledge/Truth.
“Ego” in the context of “spiritualizing the ego” means spiritualizing not just the personal thought system but all form. The personal thought system, the body/personality, and the rest of the universe of form are all not-God (not-True). But all forms have no meaning or purpose in themselves. The personal thought system, however, is a form without meaning but which gives itself the purpose of negating God (Truth) in your mind. It uses all other forms to do this. So what is called “spiritualizing the ego” really means “spiritualizing the ego and its tools”, or more simply, spiritualizing not-God. And of course it is the ego in your mind that does this!
            Simply, this occurs when you believe that both God and not-God (ego/ universe of form) are real and you see a relationship between them. The most obvious example of this is the ego’s religions. They teach both that God controls the universe of form and that what happens in the universe of form affects God. They teach that both a spirit within you and a body and a world that seem to surround it are real.
The ego’s spiritualizing of not-God shows up in many more subtle forms as well.
Some of the more common ways are in any feelings of guilt with regard to God; “should” and “should not” beliefs with regard to God; the belief that your behavior in the world changes how God responds to you; believing that you have to earn, attain, or achieve God, enlightenment, awaken, etc.; the belief in an individual soul or spirit; the belief in pre-ordination and/or reincarnation and/or an individual soul or spirit “going on” after death;  believing that unseen forms, like energy, are God; believing that “supernatural” or unexplained phenomena at the level of form are the same as God; viewing synchronicity as coming from God; wanting to change the personal self to be “good” or “spiritual”; wanting to change others or the world according to values that reflect spiritual beliefs; wanting to use spiritual awareness to manifest or attract a better personal life for the personal self; wanting to use spiritual awareness to heal the body.
            Spiritualizing not-God is undesirable because it perpetuates guilt in your mind by giving meaning to not-God. This makes it real and valuable to you. This is why ACIM puts so much emphasis on sorting out God (Truth) from not-God (illusion). As long as you believe that the ego and its world have any reality you will believe (usually unconsciously) that you have attacked God. You will believe that God is a power outside of you and over you. And you will not be able to choose God over not-God because you won’t be able to tell them apart. Undoing the confusion of God with not-God is really the entire process of attaining inner peace.
            It is almost impossible to avoid spiritualizing the ego when you first become aware of God because the personal experience is so real to you. You expect that you are meant to change it to be more God-like rather than to let it go. And of course the ego wants to reinforce this for its own sake. The vast majority of those who embark on a spiritual path never get past this stage because, after its initial resistance to you turning inward the ego realizes that it can use spiritual ideas to validate itself. It does not care if you want to make it more “spiritual” as long as you continue to believe in it. So it is more comfortable to spiritualize the ego than to let it go. But the price for you in remaining at this stage is continued guilt and fear.
            From the ego’s point of view your awareness of God only has value if it can serve the self. Its constant question is, “What’s in this for me?” But if you pursue an awareness of God to serve the self you will not find lasting peace. You will reinforce your belief in the self as your reality. And this will perpetuate guilt in your mind.
            Another reason that spiritualizing the ego occurs is that you may see how your awareness of God as Reality has a positive effect on your personal experience. God is what your mind truly is. And the personal experience is a story unfolding in your mind. So both are in your mind, but they never intersect. The universe of form never touches God. And God never touches the universe of form. But your awareness of God corrects your mind back to its natural state, and this has a positive effect on the self’s unfolding story in your mind. The personal self’s attitudes, behavior, choices, and energy change for the better when you are aware of God as Reality. This changes the self’s relationship to the world and the world’s response to it. This can seem like there is a relationship between God and the world. But really it is just that your awareness of God affects your mind and this affects your mind’s effect – the self.

If you want more peace and happiness than a spiritualized personal life can offer then you must recognize that your peace and happiness come only from the awareness of God within you, not from the effects of this awareness on the self’s life. You must attend to the cause of peace and happiness (your awareness of God within), not to its incidental effects (the positive transformation of the personal experience). You may be grateful for these effects but you must recognize that they do not make the self real. The self is an idea in your mind. It is not you. God is your Reality. And only in an awareness of this can you find true, lasting peace and happiness.

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Frank C said…
Thanks for this, Liz... this a very challenging concept and causes a tremendous amount of confusion for most of us on a "spiritual path". The "world" (ego) is set up to "suck us in" and keep us stuck in the illusion of separation, and will use any and all of our beliefs to block our awareness of the Truth. My only "weapon" against this is to remind myself, in EVERY moment, that what I see, feel and hear (and, even the "thing" that I've come to identify as my "self") is not real... it's all part of the "fog" that I made to keep GOD (Truth) out of my awareness. My intention now is to stay connected to SOURCE throughout the day, and when I'm able to do that, I experience life as a flow in which EVERYTHING is perfect. This doesn't mean that my external world is always in perfect order... it just means that it doesn't matter what happens "to me"... my Peace and Joy comes solely from my connection to God (Truth)... my life has become an ongoing and perpetual mediation.

Surprisingly, this doesn't mean my life is "empty and meaningless"... I'm still able to totally participate in and enjoy all those things everyone else is into, but from a different perspective. And, the beauty of it is, is that I'm not attached to any of it! Yes, there are times I "fall asleep" and forget that it's all a dream, but I use those "slips" as a reminder that I've lost my connection, forgive myself, and gently return to my peaceful center... quite simple, really... but, it does take constant vigilance... AAAAAHHHHHHH!!!!
will said…
This comment has been removed by the author.
will said…
I would say one other thing that has been a help and took a long time to learn is that when I ask the HS a question if I'm going to sense an answer it is almost never in the first 24 hours. So I asked for help and then let it go. Letting go of waiting for an answer is the only way I'm going to sense it if it comes. I'm sure this is a different experience for everyone but it does give a starting point to practice from.
Frank C said…
The "answer" to any request we make of the HS or Jesus is always instantaneous... the only reason it seems to take time for us to "get it" is our unwillingness (inability) to hear and accept it. Each of us has a unique way of allowing the Truth in, and that is the only real use there is for the illusion of time. However long it takes to receive the "answer" is irrelevant... the important thing is the trust that it has been done, already... in fact, it was accomplished before you asked!!
will said…
Thanks Frank.

Most every thing I write is practical advice when your new to the Course. What your writing is right on target. But people new to the Course are confused and their mind is running a mile a minute. They need help just learning how to practice and what are some of the things to look out for. Information on how to back off the complexities and begin to practice.
will said…
When I started the Course I was reading the Text and doing the lessons. I had never read anything like the text. I didn't understand any of it but I knew it was the real deal. It was the same with the lessons, I didn't understand them and wasn't able to remotely practice them. At that point I had come up against the ego but of course didn't know what that meant. I'm not saying this to exaggerate but it was five or six years before I began to understand what a Miracle was. I was studying the Course three or four hours every night and doing a half hour of meditation before bed. I just couldn't get what the Course was saying. The ego had a field day with this. When I completed the lessons if you had asked me what I knew after that year there would be little that I could have told you. The teachings in the Course have little practical value in the early years. My experience with reading the text and trying so hard to understand it is that it kept the spiritual channel open so the Holy Spirit could begin the healing process. Understanding what the Course was teaching was down the road a bit.

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