The pit of spiritual materialism

Quieting the ego is one of the fundamental and more widely professed goals of nearly all spiritual disciplines. The more spiritually accomplished one is, the maxim says, the more detached he/she is from the self that apishly craves social approval.

A study has found that spiritual training can also have the opposite effect. The ego may corrupt the spiritual practice, turning it into a tool for self-enhancement. Researchers Roos Vonk and Anouk Visser measured ‘subjective spiritual superiority’ in people with different levels of spiritual training (untrained vs energetic training practitioners vs mindfulness practitioners).

Spiritual superiority scores were higher among energetically trained participants than mindfulness trainees (> untrained). Spiritual superiority was found to be moderately correlated with self-esteem and more strongly with communal narcissism. Energetically trained participants were also overconfident in their knowledge about paranormal phenomenon, like aura healing or regression to previous lives.

According to the authors, “spirituality can be confiscated by one's ego just like money, status, attractiveness, social approval, or performance”.

Read more about the study here.