Spiritually-Transmitted Diseases

By Andrew Cohen

I stumbled upon an article I think is not only timely and interesting, but important.  I’ve touched a bit on these things previously, but Mariana Caplan, PhD, Psychotherapist and Author, Eyes Wide Open: Cultivating Discernment on the Spiritual Path, has expressed it in a no-nonsense fashion that gets to the guts of the problems faced by those seeking self awareness and enlightenment.

The mind is very cunning and Mariana has presented a good reminder to all of us to use honesty and discernment when looking at ourselves spiritually.  Here is her list of 10 spiritually-transmitted diseases:

1. Fast-Food Spirituality: Mix spirituality with a culture that celebrates speed, multitasking and instant gratification and the result is likely to be fast-food spirituality. Fast-food spirituality is a product of the common and understandable fantasy that relief from the suffering of our human condition can be quick and easy. One thing is clear, however: spiritual transformation cannot be had in a quick fix.

2. Faux Spirituality: Faux spirituality is the tendency to talk, dress and act as we imagine a spiritual person would. It is a kind of imitation spirituality that mimics spiritual realization in the way that leopard-skin fabric imitates the genuine skin of a leopard.

3. Confused Motivations: Although our desire to grow is genuine and pure, it often gets mixed with lesser motivations, including the wish to be loved, the desire to belong, the need to fill our internal emptiness, the belief that the spiritual path will remove our suffering and spiritual ambition, the wish to be special, to be better than, to be “the one.”

4. Identifying with Spiritual Experiences: In this disease, the ego identifies with our spiritual experience and takes it as its own, and we begin to believe that we are embodying insights that have arisen within us at certain times. In most cases, it does not last indefinitely, although it tends to endure for longer periods of time in those who believe themselves to be enlightened and/or who function as spiritual teachers.

5. The Spiritualized Ego: This disease occurs when the very structure of the egoic personality becomes deeply embedded with spiritual concepts and ideas. The result is an egoic structure that is “bullet-proof.” When the ego becomes spiritualized, we are invulnerable to help, new input, or constructive feedback. We become impenetrable human beings and are stunted in our spiritual growth, all in the name of spirituality.

6. Mass Production of Spiritual Teachers: There are a number of current trendy spiritual traditions that produce people who believe themselves to be at a level of spiritual enlightenment, or mastery, that is far beyond their actual level. This disease functions like a spiritual conveyor belt: put on this glow, get that insight, and — bam! — you’re enlightened and ready to enlighten others in similar fashion. The problem is not that such teachers instruct but that they represent themselves as having achieved spiritual mastery.

7. Spiritual Pride: Spiritual pride arises when the practitioner, through years of labored effort, has actually attained a certain level of wisdom and uses that attainment to justify shutting down to further experience. A feeling of “spiritual superiority” is another symptom of this spiritually transmitted disease. It manifests as a subtle feeling that “I am better, more wise and above others because I am spiritual.”

8. Group Mind: Also described as groupthink, cultic mentality or ashram disease, group mind is an insidious virus that contains many elements of traditional co-dependence. A spiritual group makes subtle and unconscious agreements regarding the correct ways to think, talk, dress, and act. Individuals and groups infected with “group mind” reject individuals, attitudes, and circumstances that do not conform to the often unwritten rules of the group.

9. The Chosen-People Complex: The chosen people complex is not limited to Jews. It is the belief that “Our group is more spiritually evolved, powerful, enlightened and, simply put, better than any other group.” There is an important distinction between the recognition that one has found the right path, teacher or community for themselves, and having found The One.

10. The Deadly Virus: “I Have Arrived”: This disease is so potent that it has the capacity to be terminal and deadly to our spiritual evolution. This is the belief that “I have arrived” at the final goal of the spiritual path. Our spiritual progress ends at the point where this belief becomes crystallized in our psyche, for the moment we begin to believe that we have reached the end of the path, further growth ceases.

Please read the article in its entirety here.

If you’re left feeling uncomfortable after reading any of these, or even all of them, embrace it with love and a sense of humor.  The realization is a step in breaking free.  There’s no need for self judgement.  We are all learning.  Just experience it and let it burn away in your heightened awareness.  It’s a blessing.  I know I encountered a few moments where I felt a little shaken while reading these and I’m delighted for the reminder.


9 thoughts on “Spiritually-Transmitted Diseases

    • Its simplest definition is “essence”. If one goes by literal dictionary definition, then it’s our nonphysical aspect and the seat of our thoughts and emotions, or our being.

  1. As difficult as this life can be, the vast majority of us, even those suffering grievous afflictions and deprivations, still arise each day, live in it, and retire with the expectation of another day ahead. Life is worth living! Or suicide would be much more prevalent. That vast majority also credits some deity (or many) for the creation of what is, themselves being a part of the creation. Therefore (am I wrong?) most people would or should say that the god (gods) they perceive, believe and/or receive is a good God. And if God is good, why DO we suffer, affliction, deprivation, disease, confusion and war?

    I have to be honest, all my self awareness leads me to the conclusion that something is very, very right about life and something is at the same time very, very wrong about life too! The ten points listed in the blog are sure enough evidence that even our spiritual nature is afflicted, deprived and even diseased. This is the earthly situation and the human condition, and since we began to write things down the evidence is that it has always been so for man. Only the Bible writes of a time when “it was very good.”

    I don’t have anything more I to say at the moment, but am reminded of this quote by a well known writer, G.K. Chesterton;

    “The Christian ideal has not been tried and found wanting. It has been found difficult and left untried.”

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