A Lesson in Spiritual Humility

From the time that my spiritual beliefs coalesced when I was around 19 or so, with the reading of the book “Seth Speaks”, I began to understand that certain features of my life were more or less designed for my own soul progress.  We do have free-will, of course, but I believe that we do come into this life with a few per-determined agreements on what we would like to experience, or would be open to experience if the opportunity presents itself.  For example, drug or alcohol addiction, abuse, certain health issues, and certainly our method of dying are all opportunities that we can use to learn important lessons, and for those around us to learn as well.   I’ve heard it said that we’ve been the abuser and the abused; we’ve been killers and have been killed.  We experience many roles in our lifetimes to gain the experience and knowledge that comes with living through these things.

Once I really began to internalize these things, I stopped looking at people who society might consider less fortunate and began to see them as more highly evolved spirits.  The guy who chooses to experience homelessness, drug addiction and severe physical pain is someone that I typically look at and say “Wow, he choose such a difficult life for himself.  What a strong spirit he must be to have agreed to undertake such a challenge in this life.”

Naturally, this leads me to compare my own life’s circumstances with the same critical eye.  I know that we should never compare and contrast; because my soul chose my particular difficulties and challenges because they were the best for my soul progression at this time, but I can’t help it.  I am feeling some spiritual guilt.

My life hasn’t been easy.  Not by a long shot.  I’ve had to face some some really harrowing, awful experiences.  Some of these challenges I was born into; but much of it was the result of my own choices.  Certainly, as the result of my own flaws and shortcomings, I created situations that were extremely difficulty to climb back out of.  These lessons were difficult but ultimately very rewarding.  I have learned from these  lessons and my soul has been positively transformed.  But just when I begin to congratulate myself on my accomplishments, I am reminded of the millions of people who are currently engaged in the kind of suffering that is truly mind-boggling.  For example, the suffering masses currently engaged in the Syrian refugee crisis.  Compared to them, my life starts to look downright cushy and I begin to feel ashamed for any pride I might have felt at overcoming my own hardships.

Why was I born to a middle-class white family in America?  Why did I choose to come in as a physical healthy, relatively attractive female in the richest country in the world?  Was it because my soul couldn’t handle anything else?  It’s a stupid way to think, I know, but I can’t help it.

Like most people, I was deeply affected by the image of that little boy washing up on the shore after his boat capsized.  His father has lost his wife and child and now has returned to Syria to face burying his family and returning to a life destroyed by both war and the callous rejection from other people.  Why wasn’t I born in Syria, into the horrors of civil war, desperately fleeing the country, only to be treated like human scum by other European countries?

My first world problems seem ridiculous in comparison, especially the ones that were self-inflicted.  Suddenly, I look back on my life and see myself as a selfish jerk who could have avoided a lot of the pain that I caused simply by being smarter and more compassionate.  My family wasn’t rich or anything, but I was born with the freedom to grow up and pursue whatever I wanted as a career, and opportunities to go to college.  When I failed, I always had a home to go back to.  My parents, though divorced now, are loving, wonderful people.  There was so much that I was given, so much that I took for granted, that I wonder if perhaps I’m a spiritual infant; buffered from the real world and only taking my first steps into the harsh cold reality of human life.  My goodness, what will happen when I spiritually mature?  What kind of suffering must I endure then to grow?  I can only hope that when my turn comes to face that those challenges, that I will be spiritually mature enough to handle it.

There was a time when I thought I must be highly evolved because I could see past the bullshit materialism and consumerism that seems to swallow up the time and attention of everyone else.  I spent most of my life thirsting to learn about the world and answer the big questions about life and death.  I have always been very spiritual and aware of the interconnectedness of all things.  I thought my intelligence and rejection of the material world somehow propelled me to the front of the life.  What an arrogant fool I was.

I eschewed consumerism while always having enough to eat.  I rejected materialism while maintaining a great job and having decent shelter.  I dedicated my life to learning and pursuing answers to big, spiritual ideas because I could; I wasn’t fighting for my life, surrounded by death, destruction and war.  Instead, I had the luxury of pursuing spirituality at my leisure because the rest of my life was relatively stable.  That is no accomplishment; it’s simply decadence veiled in the appearance of modesty.

Now, I know that I shouldn’t think this way, and I’m sure if I was getting advice from my soul, I would be told that it’s not fair to compare one life to another, because we all have our own path and our own lessons to learn.   I’ve read that there really are no ‘levels’ persay, just intensities.  In addition, time is not truly linear.  We are supposedly living all of our lives at the same time.  Its possible that I am living a life like that somewhere right now, perhaps in another time frame.  It’s just hard to believe that if we are here on earth to learn and grow that we’d be thrown into the most difficult scenarios right off the bat.  I don’t know how time really works in the spiritual world, but I think we must give ourselves only what we think we can handle.  Perhaps that’s a result of my ego, my humanness..  but suddenly, I feel very small and very humble.

Next time you look at a person who lives on the street, or watch the Syrians being herded like cattle into camps without food or water, watch people starving in other countries or being tortured – consider that these are spirits who have chosen some of the most difficult lives to endure here on Earth; their lessons will be hard but their spiritual evolution will be rapid.  That homeless guy on the street with no legs that you passed by this morning with nary a glance?  That might have been Jesus right there.   Certainly, Jesus would have chosen a life like that; not a life like mine.  If you believe the bible stories, he was born in a stable.  And though I don’t ascribe particularly to the veracity of the bible, I think there is a lot of wisdom to having your messiah be born into difficult circumstances.  The Christians recognize the value of spiritual humility as well.  Christ, one of the most evolved souls, came into this world to face a life that would ultimately end in persecution and suffering.  I think the lesson here is the same: to evolve spiritually, we must face increasingly more difficult challenges.  We wouldn’t be reading about Christ if he had been born in the suburbs and spent his time blogging.

As I lay down in my comfortable bed, I am saying a prayer for the real spiritual warriors out there, living lives not only for their own spiritual growth, but sacrificing for the spiritual growth of others.  At the very least, I have learned a great lesson tonight about spiritual arrogance.  It serves no one and certainly doesn’t aid your spiritual growth.  Before you derive any pride from your own suffering, please take a look at what real suffering truly looks like.  Then you are welcomed to join me back in spiritual kindergarten.

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7 thoughts on “A Lesson in Spiritual Humility

  1. I seem to remember over here in the UK, a famous soap actor very much into spiritual ideas, was quoted as saying that the disabled had ‘chosen’ their life. A monumental row erupted because of course the media and general public misunderstood and labelled him callous and without compassion.
    I know you started your piece Jenn by saying there is free will but then suggested it was all within certain parameters we’d chosen, which seems a funny kind of freedom to me. I mean if we choose to be a nasty, hateful beast who ends up murdering children – we don’t have much free will to become nice Jenn who writes spiritual blogs and who everybody loves!
    And your perception that if we choose our stuff then the Syrian refugees are pretty bold spiritual souls to embark on such a life of misery just to hone up their mystical muscles…….well, perhaps that means I should ask for a refund on my donations to give them some food and shelter.
    After all why should I screw up their spiritual path….why should I do anything in fact to make the world a better place when everybody’s doing just what they’ve chosen anyway?
    Oh you say, but some of the refugees have chosen to be fed or housed. Was that their choice before they incarnated – or part of their free will afterwards?
    OK some (much?) of what I’ve written here is tongue-in-cheek and I am rather just playing with ideas.
    But these concepts do sometimes make my brain hurt.
    I think somewhere else on your site you said you believe in spirit guides – but again, are they there to keep us on the path we’ve chosen, or just more screw-up merchants from ‘over there’. Funny how guardian angels always rescue people at the last moment, rather than considerately pushing them into some disaster already written into their before-life chosen agenda….
    But as you say Jenn, we don’t understand time and some presentiment psychic experiments suggest we don’t necessarily live in a causal universe.
    So just for now I shall presume that before coming to this life I would write a load of old nonsense comments in your blog, because being wound up is good for your cosmic wellbeing!

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    1. Dave, you make excellent and valid points. All things that you have mentioned are ideas that I have struggled with as well. Why do we have to learn through pain? It seems rather cruel to me. As a human being, I have a difficult time understanding this as well, but all of my research seems to point in that direction. I also would have a difficult time telling the disabled that ‘they chose’ this difficult life for the strength and spiritual progress that it can bring (it sounds incredibly trite), but I think the problem is we aren’t carefully defining who the chooser is. In my rant about spiritual humility, I didn’t make the distinction either. I believe our higher self is the chooser, someone who is not human and has a wider understanding of how this all works. It always makes people upset to think that a person like Hitler may have gone to the same afterlife as St. Teresa, but the concepts of good and evil are human concepts. Spiritual progress can be made through both. I’ve heard the argument that this disabled person came into this life with a disability because it was the best way to learn compassion and/or to have a unique relationship with family, learn love, etc. There are a lot of people with various disabilities that wouldn’t change their experience and are quite happy the way they are as well. We have free-will in my opinion, but we get guidance to remind us of the things we wanted to work on. We can choose to ignore this guidance, of course. I see spirit guides as gentle teachers, rather than authoritarian dictators. I just read an interesting book called “Journey of Souls” where a psychiatrist does past life regression. There was a past life that involved the possible maiming of a young girl. The human and the spirit/soul decided together to fall out of the carriage when the opportunity presented itself because although the agony she experienced at first was horrendous, she later in life became a great teacher and writer and inspired many because she was paralyzed, never married and had the time and impetus to challenge herself to help others. If we lived in a world with only love, could we recognize it as such? Or can we only cherish love because our world seems so devoid of it? As for what is free-will and what is contract based, I think it’s fluid. We are dealing with a world without time, where past and future are constantly changing. So, I think we may have a general idea, but as things progress, we adjust along with our guides. This could all be hogwash, of course, but that’s how I’m rationalizing it for the moment. Dave, I appreciated all of your comments – they weren’t nonsense at all. As I said, I struggle with these concepts myself and enjoy a spirited discourse on them!

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  2. Thanks for this Jenn – you make excellent points also.
    I think we’ve travelled the same road – except Journey of Souls sits unread on my bookshelf along with another by the same author.
    You wrote: ” Why do we have to learn through pain? It seems rather cruel to me. ”
    I agree but when people query it I give them the old duality thing – how would we appreciate joy without its lack – or light without dark etc.
    I know we don’t believe in a Daddy God but whatever knowledge thought up this cosmic comic existence, life seems like a scenario dreamed up by one of those animal experimenters who puts a little mouse on a hot plate to see how much burning it can take!
    My Pentecostal preacher father used to have an answer when I queried these things with him.
    “God’s ways are not our ways my son” he’d say unsatisfactorily.

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    1. Dave, your mouse comment made me laugh; yes, it does certainly seem that way! I guess its more difficult for us to accept from the human perspective than it would be from the perspective of the spirit who is sitting on their little cloud, saying “eh, it won’t be so bad. I can handle it.” Once we get down here, it’s like.. “What the hell did I get myself into??”
      So your father was a Pentecostal preacher? That must have been interesting; I’d be interested in hearing how that affected your spiritual beliefs and how you made a revolution in thinking toward these spiritual ideas. Give Journey of Souls a try. I’m still digesting it; some of it is difficult to swallow, but it’s definitely interesting.

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      1. Yes my parents were Salvation Army and then Pentecostal – running churches.
        Never made much sense to me.
        I remember asking in Sunday School where they were raving about sling shot David, what happened to Mrs Goliath and all the little Goliaths!
        Later when older I felt angry and wrote this piece:

        DADDY GAVE ME HELL AND THERE SHOULD BE A LAW AGAINST IT!

        “IF SOMEBODY threatened your children with eternal torture you’d call the police – right?

        So why was there no help when it happened to me as a child?

        Because those who did the threatening belonged to that all-respected, all-protected, all-hallowed bunch of villains – the Christian Church!

        And they’re still doing it…to millions….. every day.

        My case was even more shocking because it was my fundamentalist Christian parents who were making the frightening threats, for my father was a Pentecostal minister.

        ‘For God so loved the world’ he preached to me and the rest of his deluded congregation, ‘that he gave his only begotten son, that whosoever believeth in him, SHOULD NOT PERISH but have everlasting life.’

        There in that John 3.16. New Testament verse is the scary summary of their twisted belief.

        In simple terms it means ‘believe this and you won’t miss out on eternal life’ or put another way ‘reject it and you’ll go to hell’.

        And when they talked about hell, they meant fire and brimstone, demons with forked tails and torture for ever.

        ‘If you walk out of here today without asking Jesus into your heart’ my father and others like him thundered from the church pulpit, ‘you could get knocked down by a bus and go straight to hell.’

        No surprise that this kid stuck up his hand for Jesus – I could almost feel the flames licking round my little legs!

        It was only when I was older that I realised how stupid I’d been to get tricked by such dangerous spiritual blackmail.

        And from then on I was angry and amazed.

        Angry; because what they taught – and still teach from gospel pulpits around the world – was a sick threat to coerce innocents into their clutches.

        Amazed; because so many apparently sensible people still believe in a God who punishes people who don’t believe.

        Simple question: If you told your child something you couldn’t easily prove and he refused to believe it – what would you do? Smile and say: ‘Well one day he might see it my way’? Or maybe you’d chuckle and chortle: ‘That’s my kid, he knows his own mind, bless him’

        That’s not the way our ‘loving heavenly father’ sees it, according to these crackpot Christians. Oh sure, they say, God gives you the free will to make up your mind what you believe.

        Just one snag. If you don’t swallow his version, he’ll make sure you burn in hell! Some choice!

        I’ll tell you straight, I decided at quite an early age that I didn’t want anything to do with any Godfather who tortured his children because they didn’t believe something.

        If this was the action of a loving God – I opted for a ‘divorce’ right out of his family.

        In later years I came to a deeper understanding of spirituality and moved closer to the concept of a cosmos where all survive death as a scientific inter-dimensional shift and not a reward for belief in some saviour God.

        But this religious racism of ‘heaven for the chosen few’, has haunted me right up to and beyond the death of my parents – both wonderful, kind people despite their fascist faith.

        I was there at their bedsides as both passed – my father was 100 years old.

        But as both left this world, the heaven they longed for was tinged with tears.

        They wept because their faith had taught them that they were saying goodbye to me -for ever.

        I could never join them in ‘heaven’ you see, because I had committed the supreme sin – I dared to believe something different.

        Worse still, in their fading eyes, I was doomed to eternal punishment.

        Racial and sexual discrimination is now a criminal offence; there are laws too against intimidation with threats. So why don’t we legislate against these crazed Christians?

        Let’s put an end to this religious tyranny of terror repeated on and on down the generations.

        It’s time for a change.

        Teach your children love – not fear. “

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  3. Dave, wow. That was powerful. I can’t imagine the lifetime of heartache, anger and betrayal you must have felt. The part about your parents on their deathbed, and their tears really got to me. Of course I agree with everything you’ve said in your piece. Some of the more fundamentalist sects of Christianity that teach the fire and brimstone scripture to scare their congregations into loyalty have gone way beyond what religion is supposed to achieve, which is love of God. Fear of God is not a acceptable substitute. Your father’s beliefs were so extreme, so distorted, I shudder to think what his initial afterlife was like. You will eventually be vindicated, and there will be a reckoning between the three of you again. By now, I would think that your parents have been reassured that they will see you again but of course it doesn’t erase the lifetime of torment and disagreements which undoubtedly made your life so difficult and strained with your family. I don’t want to speculate about your spiritual growth, but at the very least, it allowed you to coalesce your beliefs away from that poisonous doctrine. If you have children, I’m sure you broke the cycle and taught your children differently. If not, well, you are here, sharing your story with us, and I feel honored by that fact. My story is different than yours, in that my mother is Catholic. I also had the same types of questions for my church leaders and knew at an early age that the path of the scripture wasn’t for me. In America, the sort of fundamentalism that you describe is rampant. Almost half of my country doesn’t believe in evolution and thinks the earth is 6,000 years old. I can’t tell you all of the times when I’ve tried to explain some sort of spiritual idea and I get a blank look, cocked head and the response, “but that doesn’t agree with the bible.” Some people just can’t conceive of a spiritual belief system not based on scripture. Jesus – if he even existed – would have never had said “the only way to the father is through me.” In fact, in the Gnosis, he explicitly says that man need not go through any intermediary to find God. You can see why the Catholic church got rid of that one.
    I had a friend when I was a teenager who was a Jehovah’s Witness. Every Sunday she and her family were required to ‘witness’ or go door-to-door giving out brochures and trying to convert people. I went to her Kingdom Hall a few times just to see what it was about, and one day she tried to get me to go with her to Witness. I refused and asked her why she did it. “Well,” she replied proudly, “The bible says only 144,000 people are going to heaven at the end of the judgement. I’m trying to save people’s soul.”
    I looked at her in astonishment. “Hang on a minute”, I said, “Isn’t it true that the more people you convert, the less chance that you will be a part of the 144,000?” She never did give me a satisfactory answer to that, and not long after her mother forbid her to talk to me.

    It’s amazing, isn’t it?

    Dave, this is exactly what I’m trying to do with this blog. Show that there is an acceptable alternative to religion without resorting to atheism and agnosticism. I agree with almost everything Dawkins says about religion and his grips about god because the god the atheists rail against is the Christian God, the Personal God (the Daddy God, as you so succinctly put it). If you take that out of the equation, there is room for the secular belief in the afterlife, guided by science (or, perhaps future science).

    My mother has come around to a new way of thinking about her religion. She no longer takes the bible literally and she agrees that I’m not going to hell because I don’t believe in Christ. I’ve asked her why she remains a Catholic if some of her views differ from the church. For her, there is comfort in the ritual and I’ve come to understand that. She has come full circle and although she frames her spirituality in Christian clothes, she has left most of the dogma behind. I think if we can get to that point with fundamentalists, we can call it an acceptable compromise.

    Wow, this is getting long. I guess I should wrap it up by saying thank you for sharing your story. I’m not like to forget the imagery that you’ve presented. I am so sorry for the experiences you had, but at the very least you’ve become an original thinker, questioning authority, and deciding for yourself what you believe. I guess that’s why you became a journalist? Perhaps these early experiences led you to question everything, which is a good thing for you and a great thing for society.

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  4. Hello again, Jenn!

    I have pondered the same thing as you – why would I choose to be born as a middle class white girl to two very simple-minded and young parents? What a boring and bland existence! I used to be so upset my childhood and family life wasn’t more interesting, worldly, or spiritual. I blamed my parents for not being mature enough before having children and therefore thought so many of my “issues” came from their lack of skills and worldliness. It wasn’t until very recently (and I’m 34) that it clicked!! Instead of seeing all the ways they went “wrong” and my obstacles because of it, I finally was able to see all the ways that were so, so right! I can’t completely agree with your thoughts that you and I and others born into similar situations must be immature souls. Instead, I see how my simple, honest, content parents and my simple, bland, mid-western upbringing instilled in me and my brothers such amazing morals, empathy, a non-materialistic nature, love and kindness, a thirst for travel and expansion – with all the resources and time to explore and quench our thirsts because we aren’t, in fact, facing war, poverty, abuse, and the like to distract us. Of course those facing these situations are also in the position to learn great things but I don’t believe it’s absolutely necessary. I do think we can learn beautiful lessons, grow and expand by taking the simpler road as well. Who can say for sure, but I would begin to think about all the positives that have come from your choice of life situation and parents. I can name one: the time and ability and life experience to write this blog and in doing so educate others and bring together a community of like individuals to share and expand on such an important and interesting topic! I think it’s important to keep in mind too the theory that sometimes bad things happen due to plain evil being in the world and it’s not always God to blame or necessarily part of someone’s life plan. I was able to understand this better when reading Toward the Light – which I linked to you in another recent comment of mine. Here again: http://toward-the-light.net/Toward%20the%20Light!%20online.html.

    Wendy

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