The trappings of this world are many. This is something we all know. The challenges, pitfalls and stumbling blocks we encounter during our time here on earth are an inherent part of the experience of life, whether we like it or not. They are also our greatest teachers — the moments through which we define ourselves, for better or ill. How we handle them sets our path into the future, and determines its quality.
They are also one of the greatest catalysts for religious and spiritual adherence. Even those who previously held no prior inclination towards either find themselves turning to the great mystical teachings in times of need. The terrifying fact of our unexplained existence here on earth, exacerbated by sudden suffering or tragedy drives them to it. Anything to relieve the pain, anything to cast some light onto the path.
Yet all calls continue to fall on deaf ears, as they always have. We are here alone, stuck with our life situation, stuck with our dysfunctional minds, toiling in the mud, unceasingly trying to climb to higher ground, yet forever finding that the mount before us is endless. This is the one constant, the uniform experience of life, the sole thing that unites us in our humanness: suffering.
And this is where the greatest appeal of the New Age lies. Suffering itself is the doorway, and it is only relieved through the transcendence of the ego. This same answer, of course, is inherent in all the great religions, yet long ago lost in translation. The New Age version, simplified as it is for the first-world audience it is aimed at, holds the same core truths, and they are indeed correct. The ascent to Mastery is found only through the dismantling of the ego. This is the work, and it must be done.
So why then, with all the massive force behind this movement — in full swing for nearly twenty-five years now — have we not seen the clear evidence of this transformation within our world? There are pockets, to be sure, but if even a fraction of those involved had truly attained an egoless state — or even a shadow of such a state — the world we are living in now would be radically different.
The problem lies, as always, with the mind, with the inability to escape conceptualization. And, while conceptualization is of course a necessary first step — the entryway that starts them on the path to self-realization — that entryway unfortunately leads more often than not down a dead end road. In order for conceptualization to be of any value at all, it must be integrated. Without integration, all we are left with is doctrine, ideology, another form of religion. There are entire movements within the New Age that have not broken the bonds of the mind through their ego work, but only strengthened it. The danger lies in the idea that they have, and the corresponding belief structures that inevitably arise. This is yet another face of the ego. Just as religion has long been its own worst enemy, so too is the potential of the new spirituality movement.
Do you really think the ego is that easily transcended? Are you under the impression that the work it takes to do so is all light and love? If you are, hardship will undoubtedly confront you in this life. While positive energy is indeed a powerful transformer and an integral part of the path to enlightenment, it must be authentic. And in order for it to be authentic it must be earned, not pretended into existence. That is denial, and all denial gets you is hard truths that insist on being learned, one way or another.
What is happening here — indeed, what is happening everywhere — is the confrontation of the self. Once you understand this, there is no denying it. The ego is a dark and terrifying force, one that has possessed the human race since the dawn of civilization and is now hurtling us headlong into planetary suicide. It is not to be underestimated. It is a trickster of infinite artifice, a carousel of endless faces, absolutely cunning in its devices. It is a living thing, and any living thing will fight for its life. The problem is that this living thing is us.
This is where much of the New Age Movement has stumbled — in forgetting its original purpose of transcendence through suffering, in true acceptance of the self, and all of the forms it takes here in this world, no matter how ghastly. It has been too quick to congratulate itself on a job well done, while the real work continues to go unheeded. In effect it is manifesting its own collective dark side - a shadow of denial that must be moved through if the bonds of conceptualization are to be broken. It is an inevitable result.
The real work of integration needs to be taken on if we are to survive. Only then will we experience transcendence. It is not a pretty job, but it is not a pretty world we have created. Do not fall for the trappings of dogma and doctrine. There are those out there in the world who, without the slightest interest in spiritual teachings, are living lives of far more spiritual effect than any number of New Age gurus. The great wisdom of the universe is available to each of us — to the simplest minds, the hardest hearts, the 'lowest' among us — and it is not a concept or an ideology that delivers it, it is the human experience itself.