At the Mermaid Tree, we recognize how difficult it can be to keep faith in a sometimes very negative world–no matter what religion or spiritual path you follow. In particular, we recognize the unique challenges sometimes faced by those who follow alternative spiritual paths. We seek to offer a supportive community where positive and intellectual discussion can be fostered. We try to be sensitive to the fact that sometimes you lose friends, family, or support if you “out” yourself spiritually as non-mainstream. If you follow an alternative path, you are consistently reminded in conversations every day–both casual and professional–just how different your world view is from most people you encounter. In giving such support for each other in our community, it can sometimes be easy to fall into frustration with those who are more mainstream. Out of this frustration can build a feeling to push back in a way, or even a feeling of better than in relation to those who follow a more socially accepted spiritual practice. This is very dangerous, not only for the individual, but also for the community as a whole.
Most New Agers (or Neopagans, or Shamans, or whatever label you prefer–or none at all if that is your thing) moved away from a traditional religion because it felt too constricting. They felt as though other people were forcing them to believe certain “truths” that they did not connect with on a personal level. And spirituality is personal so it is only natural for people to explore until they find something with which they have that connection. Many within the New Age community pull from several religions to create a set of beliefs unique to them–full of those things that sound true to them. With this borrowing must also come a respect for the original religion as well–and there are many within the alternative spirituality community who don’t care if you adhere to a traditional religion or something less mainstream. Spirituality is all about what works for you. I, personally, believe that any way people connect to Spirit is beautiful–traditional or unique. There is nothing wrong with any one path. In the past, I have encountered those within the alternative spirituality community who appear to think otherwise, though.
There are some within the community who seek to convert those following a mainstream religion, to demonstrate to them that their beliefs are founded in lies, to make them turn away from something that gives them great fulfillment and satisfaction. When the mainstream follower refuses to agree with all of the New Ager’s beliefs, they are called closed-minded and all of their personal beliefs are rendered invalid. This is a trap that is not only very easy to fall into, but a dangerous one. As long as they are not forcing their beliefs on you, why does it matter that someone finds complete satisfaction in traditional religious practices? This is complete hypocrisy. Just because someone disagrees with you, that does not make them closed-minded. It just means they disagree with you.
There is a lot of talk around evolution and consciousness and vibrations within the alternative spirituality community, which can lead some to start thinking of themselves as better than those around them who are not aware of these subtle forces at work in our world. From here, it is an easy jump to wanting to tell people what you believe and “make them understand.” This is futile. Everyone experiences God(dess) differently. Spirit makes Him/Herself known in a variety of ways to people of different cultural and philosophical backgrounds. There is no one absolute way to experience Spirit. Building on this principle, as long as an individual is not forcing beliefs upon anyone else or using their beliefs as a basis for justification to hurt other human beings, there is no wrong way to connect to God.
This is a very simple concept, but one that is easy to forget. If you think you are diverging into an egotistical view of spirituality, ask yourself these questions…
Do I often tell those that believe differently from me that they are wrong?
Do I discuss spirituality with others more to argue and convince others of my opinions than to open my mind to experiencing Spirit in other ways? Am I at all interested in how other people view/experience/communicate with God?
Do I believe that the worth of people can be defined by how closely their beliefs resemble mine?
Do I think that those who follow a traditional religious belief system are automatically less intellectual than myself?
Do I lose respect for someone when I find out they follow a more mainstream practice of religion?
Do I call those that listen to me talk about my spiritual beliefs “closed-minded” while not taking the time to hear anything they want to share about their personal experiences with God?
Did you answer “Yes” to most of the above questions? Be honest with yourself! We all walk a fine line between independently defining our beliefs and then being too stubborn within them to see that other spiritual experiences may be equally and simultaneously just as valid.
Please share in a comment below or on Twitter using #newageego if you have any experience with this situation–whether you were the one with the ego, or you were receiving it. We want to hear from you!