Saturday, May 20, 2006

Ego Inflation Revisited

“The most dangerous man in the world is the contemplative who is guided by nobody. He trusts his own visions. He obeys the attractions of an interior voice but will not listen to other men. He identifies the will of God with anything that makes him feel, within his own heart, a big, warm, sweet interior glow. The sweeter and the warmer the feeling is the more he is convinced of his own infallibility. And if the sheer force of his own self-confidence communicates itself to other people and gives them the impression that he is really a saint, such a man can wreck a whole city or a religious order or even a nation: and the world is covered with scars that have been left in its flesh by visionaries like these.”
-Thomas Merton
Seeds of Contemplation,
New York, 1949, (p 111-112)
I know I can't revisit something as important as this enough. (See Gnosis and Delusions)

Every time I'm asked by a reporter about dogma, I tell them we don't really have any but people are always trying to force theirs on us. It's just the way some people are: they see a lack of enforced authoritarian dogma as a vacuum for them to fill. All Gnostic Clergy have such stories.

It seems to be a common mistake of the grandiose to think "Gnostic" means "looking for a new prophet to follow" or some such ridiculousness. Even the sincere get ego inflated by their experiences, but some really do seem like they're trying to fill up a balloon and fly away. And some seem to succeed to the awe and amazement of many. But they are not the air, the breath, the spirit that fills the balloon--they are dead weight that is trying to contain it, thinking by doing so they are in control, when in fact they are now at the mercy of the winds.

As Merton reminds us, ego inflated people can be very sincere, very appealing, and very dangerous. Who are these people? Sometimes, we are, it is a part of the spiritual path and we must learn to recognize it. But there are also those who seem to be addicted to ego inflation, to the spiritual high it brings. They equate it with spirituality, with progress on the path. If there is no one to aid them, or if they make themselves impervious to aid, they can become lost. Just as in the balloon analogy, the inflated ego becomes a puppet for larger forces.

What could be a bigger tragedy than finding out that you have lived a life that was not your own, wrapped in patterns and sensations, that in attempting to redirect them for your benefit, only enslaved you?

[Thanks to Francis who posted most of the Merton quote at Fantastic Planet.]

6 comments:

Francis said...

You'll quite possibly see this over at Jeremy' site but it's apropos so I'll post it here too:

Rev. Troy: Thank *you* for the unabridgement. Re which, from my own recent experience, I can testify as to the seductiveness of the “big, warm, sweet interior glow.” (One might also speak of it as a major opening / unblocking of the heart chakra if Indian nomenclature works for you.) Absent the perspective that an experience of this nature — I described it to a friend as “an intense sense of the love at the core of all things (and of ourselves)” — could happen to *anyone* and was *not* indicative of divine favor vested in one individual and one only, who knows what havoc *I* might have been tempted to inflict on this poor old world (well, perspective coupled with my utter anonymity and nonexistent charisma). :-)

Roger Kuhrt, PhD said...

I was curious Troy--what does training in Gnostic Piresthood entail? Do most hold legit. Masters of Divinity degrees from accredited institutions? Are there Gnostic "seminaries"?

cheerfully, Roger Kuhrt

Rev. Troy said...

If you look at MDiv programs, you will see that there is very little there that would be of interest, and even less that would be of use for a Gnostic.

Bible study classes aren't really on the horizon for us, nor are there a great many opportunities for extended exegesis on canonical scripture. There is also the whole aspect of not only paying tuition, but also taking that time, leading to debts. If we were paid, or even had enough help with donations that we only had to pay for half of everything—then getting saddled with a great deal of debt to feel 'legit' might mean something other than the end of Gnostic clergy.

There is little in such programs that is of use to mainstream clergy in terms of ministry either. You really have to look hard, and at MA programs not MDivs, to find programs with any real value for ministry.

A Gnostic seminary is something I am going to work on bringing about, but even then what you can teach is episteme: though that can lead to deeper understanding and to Gnosis. There is much more that we can research, develop, and provide that will be of value: and not just for Gnostics. The Gnosis Institute was founded to help facilitate this type of work.

The key for Gnostic clergy is a formation process. In the EG this follows the traditional seven years, with some variation. The details are handled by the local pastor, ultimately under supervision of the bishop. This is more than personal study, transformation, and growth, although vital. It is a long slow process of becoming by doing, serving closer and closer to the mystery, taking on more and more of the role and responsibility--a seven year spiritual/sacerdotal apprenticeship. Learning by doing, learning by seeing it done. It is a difficult road, and it leads to the beginning of an even more difficult one.

This is not a guarantee, but then, there are none. Formation is also an ongoing process, continued praxis is the continuation of formation as a priest.

Roger Kuhrt, PhD said...

thank you Troy. Is there a website for The Gnostic Institute? I don't disagree with the approach you laid out. Being a Unitarian Universalist our seminaries are a bit different than Xian Protestant schools--they are Harvard, Medville-Lombard (U of Chicago) and Starr King School for the Ministry (Berkeley, CA).

Also, I downloaded the book: Mysteries of the Gnostic Ascent--A Gnostic Prayer Sequence--is there any place near or around Tacoma/Seattle, WA where I might experience that sequence in a group context? It is a fascinating document. And I await daily the arrival of Jordan's new book.

Cheerfully, Roger Kuhrt

Rev. Troy said...

The main URL is at gnosisinst.org although a few other addresses will take you there as well.

I am still hammering out the cool interactive interface, but there are a couple of short pieces about the institute up now.

You're in luck with where you live. Not only that but there are also Gnostics there. ;) Such as, Jeremy who put that together. It is new, and I don't think any group exercise has been tried, or even contemplated.

Roger Kuhrt, PhD said...

Rev. Troy said: "You're in luck with where you live. Not only that but there are also Gnostics there. ;) Such as, Jeremy who put that together. It is new, and I don't think any group exercise has been tried, or even contemplated."

Hey, let's contemplate, contemplate and dance to the music!

Cheerfully, Roger Kuhrt