Why having a healthy and postive sense of self is essential on a path of ego transcendence...
In his book Transformations of Consciousness, the Buddhist psychotherapist Jack Engler famously wrote “you have to be somebody before you can be nobody”.
Engler was highlighting the importance of developing a healthy and positive ego – and manifesting a significant degree of success in one’s life – before embarking on a serious spiritual path.
Paradoxically, when we take the journey towards ego transcendence, it helps enormously if we’ve already developed a healthy and robust ego. A positive self-sense can help to prepare us, giving us the emotional strength and self-confidence to meet the sometimes immense existential demands of the spiritual path with maturity and composure.
If we have already confronted and overcome significant challenges in our professional or personal life, this gives us a greater capacity to do so in other contexts. The ability to deal effectively with internal or external pressure allows us to better face the profound resistance and doubt that inevitably arises when we are asked to meet the challenges of transcending our own ego.
When someone who has not developed such a capacity meets a powerful teacher, that individual may not be truly ready for what the teacher is offering. They haven’t yet developed the kind of autonomy, strength and self-confidence to really flourish in this context.
Broadly speaking we could therefore say that serious spiritual adepts fall into two distinct groups – what we might call True Believers and Autonomous Finders.
The True Believer has not yet made the teaching their own. Only when they have been able to take full responsibility for what they have learned, and apply it when they are tested, will they become an Autonomous Finder. It is on this journey from True Believer to Autonomous Finder that those who have already self-actualised, and developed a strong and healthy self-sense, may have a natural advantage.
In this talk, Andrew Cohen explores the apparently paradoxical relationship between the development of a strong and healthy ego, and the ability to flourish in the context of a teaching which is rooted in ego transcendence. Jack Engler’s famous quote resonates now more powerfully than ever, and holds a deceptively simple but valuable insight for all those who aspire to progress on a serious spiritual path.
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