On Not Using Advanced Teachers to Beat Up On Yourself
Really, not enough can be said about how much the belief in guilt is an obstacle to peace. It is what is behind all the sense of “sin” that I hear in clients’ laments about their path: “I’m wrong”, “I’m doing it wrong”, “I’m not enough”, “I’m not doing enough”, “I should be doing it that way”, “I shouldn’t be doing this”, etc. Of course, you can replace any of these “I”s with “they”s, which is how guilt shows up as projection. Turned inward or outward or both, the belief in guilt anywhere is the belief that guilt is real in you. (There’s more on this in my book, Releasing Guilt for Inner Peace).
This observation came about as I contemplated writing an article on the mistake students of inner peace make comparing themselves to more advanced spiritual teachers. They turn teachers and role models into symbols of standards they fail. Or, they attack those who could be teachers and role models for them for not appearing as they’ve decided the theory they’ve read means they should appear. The fact is, you are always right where you are supposed to be. The fact is, your path is going to unfold in its own unique way, and that may or may not resemble what you’ve read (whether or not what you’ve read is what the writer meant to convey!). The belief in guilt and the fear it induces are behind judgments that say otherwise.
The state of egolessness (the absence of fear and desire) is what most students on a spiritual path seek and/or expect to attain. But it is the ego (personal thought system) in your mind that judges and you do not attain egolessness through the ego. So judging against yourself does not help you attain egolessness. Judging does nothing, really, but hurt you while you hold onto it. Judgment is the knife guilt twists in your belly. (It’s a form of seppuku!)
Often a student’s response to their judgments is to feel guilty for judging. This merely perpetuates the problem, of course. It’s circular: I judge, I feel guilty for it, I judge myself for judging, I feel guilty…But judging also cannot prevent you from attaining egolessness. Egolessness is not the result of anything you do or refrain from doing. It results when you are willing to be free of the ego.
Until then, the path to inner peace is learning how to live with the ego by letting it pass. This is why A Course in Miracles ends the Text with “Choose Once Again”. This is why it emphasizes the practice of forgiveness (by which it means remembering that only the Truth is true and everything else is illusion). A spiritual teacher who has attained egolessness can demonstrate egolessness, but they cannot teach egolessness. (This teacher still has the echo of the ego, so she does not consider herself egoless). What they can teach are the practices necessary to move past the ego until it does drop completely. So it’s important not to emulate a spiritual teacher who is egoless, but rather to listen to what they teach about living with an ego, as they once did.
Egolessness is an absolute state (no degrees of ego) where living with an ego is a relative state (varying degrees of ego). Choosing, learning, forgiving, asking for another way to look at things—these practices are not necessary in egolessness. But, until egolessness, to live in a relatively peaceful state and to attain willingness to be egoless, you practice these. Until then, they are helpful illusions.