Why people fail at spirituality

People fail because they don’t actually want to succeed.

That sounds weirdly counter-intuitive, and they will forever protest against that statement, citing this or that reason or obstacle – either the spiritual technique isn’t working, or the guru isn’t “authentic” enough, or something else. Basically, they will change philosophies, religions, gurus and techniques ad nauseam, and the only things they will “improve” at are arrogance and cynicism.

When I say they don’t actually want to succeed, I mean that the professed goal of their practice is often different from the actual one. The professed goal is to “attain enlightenment” or “find God”. The actual goal might be to feel like you’re better than other people, so you’re creating a system of values that places you at or close to the top, with little effort. That’s why religious cults are famous for being a refuge for losers; outside, you’re nothing, but inside, you’re a bhakta of the Lord, or one of the “saved ones”, or whatever they think of themselves. It’s always easy: modify behaviour, change language, sometimes change outward appearance, eat vegetarian food, believe in the official doctrine, and you can pretend to be spiritual. It’s something that is easily done, provides great ego-boost, and the reason why people continue this charade often for decades is, basically, because they leave only when the price of continuing becomes greater than the price of letting go. Everything is measured in ego-stimulation or ego-trauma; what will people think or say, how will they perceive you, what will be your perceived social status. It’s probably wrong to say that those people don’t attain spiritual goals – it’s more accurate to say that they define spiritual goals in different terms than one would normally expect. If your goal is to feel great because your community thinks highly of you, and you mistake that feeling of ego-affirmation for spiritual bliss or something, and you genuinely have no goals other than to attain an even greater degree of this feeling, you won’t see this either as a spiritual wrong turn, or as a costly mistake. Someone like me might see it that way, but from your perspective, you’re doing great and I’m just jealous of your great success at spirituality. Only when the degree of ego-stimulation wanes will you actually start using your intellectual faculties to re-assess your situation, because if it feels good, you’ll just continue doing it. But when you’re on the bliss-high, the only “spiritual work” you’re doing has the function of increasing your stature within your community. The concept of actually deconstructing your desire-structure and other self-perpetuating patterns, of seeing how you use your energy to power ideas, to test moving your mental energy to different things, withdrawing it, increasing the strength just to test control, that’s not something you actually do. If spirituality is “a thing” in your social network, the social network is the primary interest, and “spirituality” could be cars, computers, guns, or breeding exotic animals, for all it matters. So, if you’re failing, you need to really honestly think about what you are actually trying to do. When people don’t make progress at something, it usually means they are quite content with their present situation, and they don’t see anything that’s so bad that it would require great sacrifice and effort to change. If they wanted to join a religious organization for the feeling of community, belonging to a group and having a common purpose, and they attained that, I’m not necessarily going to perceive their situation as “failure”. I would perceive it as failure only if their goal was to actually gain experience of the transcendental reality, to gain insight into their own spiritual momenta and attain power over themselves and spiritual states and energies in general. But if that’s not the goal, then not attaining it is not failure, it’s Tuesday.