Spirituality typically conjures images of calmness, emotional adeptness, and Zen-like tranquility. What it does not often evoke is the association with ego.
Believe it or not, though, it can happen—spiritual ego is a thing. And what’s meant to foster awareness and enlightenment suddenly becomes clouded with comparison and self-enhancement.
“Humans we are,” says Mahatria Ra, a well-known spiritual leader and trainer of Mindvalley’s A Journey to Infinitheism Quest. “We have a fragile ego.”
It’s a sort of paradox where our journey, meant to be about humility and connection, subtly becomes about asserting our spiritual superiority or specialness. And it’s only until we learn to transcend the ego can true growth occur.
What Is Spiritual Ego?
Ego, the spiritual definition of it, is when our journey to become better accidentally makes us feel superior to others. It twists our spiritual practices into a source of pride and separates us, rather than uniting us, with others on a similar path.
Egos is a perpetual beggar. It’s all the time forcing you to prove something to the world. — @mahatria
With only 33% of Americans describing themselves as spiritual, there’s a clear divide. This gap can accidentally create a place where the spiritual ego grows. And in this space, the path to enlightenment can sometimes turn into a platform to quietly judge others instead of being a way to truly connect and grow spiritually with them.
Spiritual ego vs. ego
Ego, regardless of its guise or intention, is still ego. However, while the typical ego might boast about material possessions, good looks, or a high social standing, its spiritual counterpart masks itself under an aura of divine wisdom and higher understanding.
Here’s a side-by-side comparison of the two:
|Pseudo-compassion, disguised judgment||Spiritual Ego|
|Expression||Boasting, seeking attention||Subtle superiority, feigning humility|
|Validation||External validation from others||Inner validation, often masked as “enlightenment”|
|Common Feelings||Jealousy, competitiveness||Pseudo-compassion, disguised judgement|
|Reaction to Criticism||Defensive, angry||Dismissive, considering oneself as misunderstood|
|Relationships||Often superficial, self-serving||May appear deep but is conditional upon spiritual alignment|
It’s a bit like when you learn something new and suddenly see mistakes in what everyone else is doing. You might feel like telling them the “right” way to do things because you now “know better.”
The same thing can happen on our spiritual path. We learn new things and feel enlightened, bolstering our spiritual intelligence. But there can be times when, without realizing it, we start believing we are somehow better than others who don’t know what we now know.
Examples of Spiritual Ego
Spirituality is the path to connecting with one’s higher self. However, ego can get in the way. Here’s what it can look like:
- Bragging lightly. Mentioning your meditation hours or spiritual practices to showcase devotion.
- Being “special”. Saying you have a direct connection to special spiritual leaders or angels to make yourself look important.
- Virtual virtue. Frequently posting pictures of your spiritual activities online, aiming to enhance your spiritual image and gain attention or validation.
- Silent judging. Believing that your spiritual path or practices are superior to everyone else’s.
- Hidden impatience. Feeling annoyed when people don’t understand spiritual concepts quickly.
- Unconscious superiority. Assuming you have deeper insights than others in spiritual discussions.
- Faux humility. Acting humble outwardly, but feeling proud of your own humility internally.
“When ego comes, everything else goes,” says Mahatria. “When ego goes, everything else comes.”
Keeping our hearts and minds alert to these subtle shifts is essential. And this vigilance ensures that the journey toward spirituality remains authentic, grounded in true understanding and compassion.
5 Signs of Spiritual Ego
Understanding spiritual ego is important because it can quietly slip into our journeys, even when we think we are being true to our higher selves. It’s kind of like a quiet whisper that makes us feel a little bit better than others because we meditate, pray, or understand certain spiritual teachings.
So what are spiritual ego signs? Here are some to look out for:
- Feeling special. Sometimes, you might start to feel like your spiritual practices or learning make you better or more advanced than other people.
- Getting frustrated. There might be moments when you feel annoyed or impatient with people who don’t get spiritual ideas as quickly as you do.
- Defending a lot. If you find yourself always defending your spiritual beliefs and practices, it might be a sign too.
- Using spiritual bypassing. This is when you use spiritual ideas to skip over or ignore painful emotions or problems, saying they’re not spiritual or just not dealing with them.
- Clinging to an image. Holding on really tight to the idea that you are a “spiritual person” and trying hard to keep that image.
Paying attention to these signs is vital. Consequently, being honest with yourself helps ensure your journey remains true and expresses love towards everyone, including you.
As Agapi Stassinopoulos, a world-renowned spiritual teacher, says in her Speaking With Spirit Quest on Mindvalley, “So often when we are asked to embark on new adventures, we are terrified of the unknown. But a new calling can be a golden opportunity to step into the fullness of who we truly are.”
How to Get Rid of Spiritual Ego
It’s possible to transcend the traditional ego. And thus, it’s also possible to transcend the spiritual one.
Turning to Mindvalley’s spiritual experts, here’s how you can do so:
1. Take notice of when your spiritual ego shows up
The ego embodies our personality, beliefs, preferences, and values. It serves as a kind of filter through which our unique personalities and preferences are formed. And if we didn’t have it, there would essentially be no discernible difference between any of us, according to dharma coach Sahara Rose. (You can find her meditations on the Mindvalley app.)
So the whole idea of “shattering the ego” or “going beyond the ego” is ideally a false statement. “It becomes another way,” Sahara explains, “that our ego tries to make us feel like we are better than other people.”
No; instead, she advises you to just take notice when it arises. That way, you can make more conscious choices and not let them drive your decisions and interactions.
What you can do: Take notice of how spiritual ego can show up in your life. Be conscious, Sahara advises, of how you see the people who “don’t wear your style of clothing, the people who don’t listen to your same kind of music, the people who still go to the mall.”
Once you’re aware of your perception, you can then start to catch your judgment of them (if it happens, of course).
2. Unblock your crown chakra
“The crown chakra, which represents the center of consciousness itself, is the consciousness that we all possess,” says Anodea Judith, a leading chakra expert and the trainer of Mindvalley’s Chakra Healing Quest.
When this energy center is open and balanced, it can connect you to universal and divine energy, which naturally mitigates the grasp of the spiritual ego. However, when it’s blocked, it can make you feel disconnected and lost, essentially feeding the ego.
What you can do: Engage in mindful chakra meditation.
Simply envision a radiant, thousand-petal lotus at the top of your head, symbolizing your chakra. Then imagine its gentle embrace, holding and guiding you like a nurturing parent.
This visualization connects you to a higher wisdom. Additionally, it helps dissipate the binding grip of the spiritual ego by fostering profound interconnectedness and awareness.
3. Get bigger than your fear
Fear can be a big part of your spiritual ego, acting like a wall that stops you from truly understanding yourself and connecting with the world on a deeper level. However, according to Agapi, fear isn’t so much a bad thing; it’s a teacher showing you where you can grow.
“My favorite acronym of the word fear is False Expectations Appearing Real,” she points out in her Mindvalley Quest. It comes from the amygdala, the part of our brain that wants to keep us safe. However, sometimes it gets in the way of our spiritual growth by creating false fears.
What you can do: To move past fear and have a true spiritual awakening, you need to see fear, understand it, and remember you’re bigger and stronger than it.
“The minute you find yourself in fear,” Agapi says, “if we have the mindset at that moment to say, ‘Okay, you know, I can feel this fear showing up; it’s bubbling up inside of me. On the one hand, I have this fear, and it’s okay; it’s normal; it’s human.
On the other hand, I have my God; I have my presence. I have my connection to my inner power, and I can embrace that fear, and I know what to do in the face of fear.’ See how that is way more empowering?”
The key to all this is not judging the fear. The thing is, if you judge it, you deny yourself, and you rob yourself of the opportunity to shift it.
4. Forgiveness is key
According to Mahatria, there are two barriers that can hinder you from growing spiritually, particularly in relationships: hurt and ego.
“They are such big barriers,” he adds. “Immaturity in relationships is to become a victim of hurt, is to become a victim of ego.”
The baggage of guilt and hurt you carry acts like scratched spectacles, distorting your view of life and relationships. The burden may seem light now, but carrying it through life can become unbearably heavy.
What you can do: The key to shedding this weight is forgiveness, which may also pave the way toward “ego death”—a profound transformation and relinquishing of the self’s identity.
You need to forgive yourself to liberate yourself from guilt, and you need to forgive others to release the pain they’ve caused. This isn’t about forgetting or denying your experiences, but about choosing to see life through fresh, clear eyes and allowing yourself to transcend beyond the barriers of your ego.
“The most tiring of all experiences in life is this constant need to prove something to the world; you don’t have to,” Mahatria advises. “Give love a chance. Instead of holding onto your ego and dropping love, from here onwards, hold onto love and drop ego.”
5. Ask your Spirit for direction
The spiritual ego can often convince you that your spiritual knowledge or practices are above everyone else’s. “This,” according to Agapi, “is such a great opportunity to remind yourself that you can reach for your lifeline and dial the Spirit for direction.”
In doing so, you’re admitting that you don’t know it all and that you’re ready to listen to a higher wisdom. And this act is humble and honest, and it doesn’t leave room for ego (which, quite frankly, thinks it has all the answers).
What you can do: “Don’t wait for the big decisions to call in the Spirit for direction,” Agapi advises. “You want to make it a habit in your life.”
Ask it: “What would you have me do?” And then, with trust and patience, listen for the answers, knowing they always come. And in this way, you gradually release the hold of the spiritual ego, embracing a path of true spiritual openness and growth.
Awaken Your Spiritual Shift
Transcending the spiritual ego isn’t the final stop on your spiritual journey. Instead, it opens up a deeper, truer path toward understanding and connecting with the bigger picture.
When you spot the spiritual ego, you can choose to work with it or around it. And that’ll really allow the truths and practices of your spiritual path to shine through in a more honest way.
Interested in digging deeper? Start your grand adventure with Mindvalley. Create a free account and unlock the door to countless quests that can lead you gently through your spiritual growth, like:
- Speaking With Spirit Quest with Agapi Stassinopoulos, where you’ll learn ways to connect deeply with your spirit and find more meaning and joy in your life.
- A Journey Into Infinitheism Quest with Mahatria Ra, where you’ll break the conventional image of enlightenment and discover how to awaken your true power while navigating daily life and challenges.
- Chakra Healing Quest with Anodea Judith, where you’ll learn simple ways to use your mind, body, and spirit to heal energy deep inside you.
With your free account, you unlock the first few classes so you can dip your toes into a universe where real spiritual discovery and growth happen. Additionally, you’ll have access to daily guided meditations to bolster your spiritual practice.
In the words of Agapi, “the Universe has our back, yes, and our heart.” And your job is to be open to its help.
Images generated on Midjourney.