According to Robert Augustus Masters, PhD, author of Spiritual Bypassing, the answer is “yes”—at least when we use spirituality as what he calls “avoidance in holy drag” (1). He informs us, through this no-holds-barred book of refreshing and uncompromising candor, that there are many things we use to avoid painful feelings, unresolved wounds, and underdeveloped need attainment capacities.
One of the common terms thrown about quite a bit today, and very often extremely misunderstood, is the term shadow. Another is the shadow’s counterpoint the ego. According to many, the shadow is the container for all of our “badness,” and the separate and distinct ego that other “bad”part of us that acts as an enemy to the drives of the higher or more spiritual self. But according to Masters, working with shadow material actually is “…the practice of acknowledging, facing, engaging, and integrating what we have turned away from, disowned, or otherwise rejected in ourselves.” And he goes on to tell us that shadow work “is not significantly taken into account in religion and most spiritual paths, especially those that marginalize or insufficiently address the psychological and emotional dimensions of experience” (43).
And of the ego, he tell us that:
Spiritual paths that overvalue and cling to the notion of transcendence tend to pathologize ego, seeing it as no more than something to be overcome or eradicated if we are to spirtually awaken–and so “I” is treated as no more than an incarnational tagalong of a decidedly lower vibration, at best adding a bit of color and flair to the proceedings. … Depersonlized spirituality is an anemic undertaking in which hollowness is confused with transparency, ungroundedness with altitude, flimsy boundaries with openness, and emotional flatness with equanimity (99-100).
Integration is the key here, so when we refer to the ego as a kind of inner enemy, and when we think of the shadow as the “bad” parts of ourselves, we are splitting off against these most valuable assets to our existence. But these parts only act as assets when they are not split off from the uniting center—the Self. Carl Jung spoke of a union of opposites that was necessary to the conscious awareness of this central force, the Self. And integration is the process that facilitates that union.
Many of our teachers speak of nonduality—the Oneness of all—and yet, Masters tells us that sometimes we are getting a kind of double message from our teachers about this Oneness:
It is easy to use nondual teachings to both distance ourselves from our humanity and to make a virtue of such disengagement, leaving us clinging to our detachment. … Such distortions are reinforced by teachers who reduce nonduality to a rationale for bypassing our individuality and the “stories” through which we reinforce our sense of self. The spooning out of nondual pablum—prechewed for us—assumes that we have no teeth, no bite, no need for uncooked truth, and should instead just keep our spiritual bibs on. … We may, in the throes of embracing nondual philosophy, get so attached to the notion that form is an illusion that we shy away from living a relational, fully embodied life, doing time in the sanctums of spiritual correctness (159).
That’s just one example he gives of how we can split ourselves off from going richly into the depths of ourselves to receive a truer more balanced and more potent spirituality–regardless of religion. He reminds us to look to paradox to find the kernels of true spirituality. In particular the paradox of union in differentness; of the union of opposites; of the light united with the darkness; of the flesh that is not illusion, but also is not alien to formlessness.
Spiritual Bypassing is just one of the many books found in the library of studies at the American Institute of Holistic Theology. We encourage a self-directed and self-paced, self-reflective model of study to obtain a degree because we believe that this approach allows the student to find his/her own truth, one that is genuine, comes from authenticity and original thought—and carries the student into the mystical truth behind all religions and in all things.
If this is the kind of study you’d like to participate in, contact AIHT today: 800-650-4325. And learn more about what is offered at our website.
Masters, Robert A. Spiritual Bypassing: When Spirituality Disconnects Us from What Really Matters. Berkeley, CA: North Atlantic Books. 2010. Print.