The "Practical Spirituality" Newspaper

Spiritual Materialism

In Billbergia, Study Group, Terminology on May 16, 2009 at 11:20 am

Brisbane Trip Feb 2008 030Quite often, we seek our happiness from external sources – such as our favourite tv show, favourite food, our friends and special events such as parties or other pleasant experiences. We seek out the things that we believe will make us happy and this is natural. It seems that a desire to be happy is innately inbuilt into every human being, like an internal compass that points us in life-giving directions and away from life stealing ones.

At Wednesday nights study group we looked at the Flower of Happiness, Billbergia ‘Fred Gerber’. One of the themes that arose during the evening was the subject of materialism – the desire to acquire objects in order to bring happiness to our lives. At superficial glance, we may think that this flower is for ‘the greedy people’ among us – those people who want several cars, monstrous houses, material excess and wealth-beyond-measure. Yes, the flower helps with this form of materialism – the over-consumption of externals in order to ‘be’ happy. However, the materialism we talked about was not of this kind. It was the subtle kind that we can so easily fall prey of – spiritual materialism!

Turning away from external materials as our main ( or only ) source of happiness seems to be a natural part of our spiritual unfoldment – an indicator that we have reached a kind of ‘half way’ point in our conscious evolution. So often we begin our lives seeking material forms of wealth, fame or power but pretty soon we find that these things – even if we do manage to attain them – do little to bring us real or lasting happiness. Fleeting happiness, yes. Lasting or true happiness, no.

If we were to buy a brand new car for example – which is a wonderful experience at the time – other events in our lives soon clash with our current joy and distract, cloud or ruin the experience. And what was once a source of joy, now is ordinary and lacks the same spark that it once had.

So, after repeatedly using the external-world-to-bolster-the-inner-world we become disillusioned. Disappointed by the fact that our joy does not last, we seek out a new source of joy. Dissatisfied again and again, we no longer cling to the materials of our lives or reach outwardly for our joy. But, as I said earlier, disillusionment with the material world and looking internally for lasting sources of peace, happiness and security is only the halfway point. We must reach these ends and not merely live in the pursuit of them! But how do we achieve these ends? And live them?

Often those on the spiritual path fall into a trap.  And are fooled by a common misconception. Many believe that because they no longer seek outer means to bring them inner joy, that we have moved beyond materialism. Many spiritual people associate ‘materialistic attachment’ with the gross forms of excess such as fame, monetary greed, sexual excess or other aspects of  ‘the material world’. And so under this misconception, many spirituals ‘give up the material world’ in a blanket response to their seeking ‘more refined’ goals than materialistic and ephemeral ones.

There is often a perception with people who define themselves as spiritual, that one has become ‘spiritually intelligent’ because they no longer seek ‘false pleasures’. And therefore, many assume that they are liberated from materialistic greed. But, it is at this very point that one often jumps out of one frying pan and into the fire! This is a time where ones identity as being a spiritual person can cloud a new form of materialism – the danger of reaching for, grasping after and seeking inner objects to please oneself!

In replacement of seeking external objects, one can become entrapped in a lifelong pursuit seeking to possess inner objects! We can so easily spend our lives in the pursuit of inner peace, illumined insight, greater wisdom, subtle awareness, tranquility, bliss, a calm disposition, a clear mind, nirvana, serenity, generosity, compassion… as though these were ‘objects’ that one could ‘have’ as possessions. And not the attributes of self that they are.

Many spirituals who abandon the material world as a true source of happiness, get caught in a new cycle of acquisition, a new type of grasping-for-ownership – all of which serves the same ego that sought worldly materials! We can then spend our precious time merely feeding our ego-in-disguise – that of our spiritual self image!

How many spiritual people that you know ruin any chance of joy with preferential wanting, the desire to be ‘more spiritual’, grasping to have ‘better qualities’ and seeking some inner object such as enlightened consciousness?

Whether seeking external materials or internal ones, the trap is the same. The truth is this – whether you are on a material path of fame and fortune… or a spiritual one of heaven and enlightenment, my question to you is the same… “When will you be happy?”

  1. For those who are interested, I have adjusted the settings of the blog so you can now subscribe to new posts – just click the RSS FEED button at the top of the main page.

  2. when will i be happy? when i know that i’m sufficient, when i know that i’m perfect, when i love myself warts and all and stop trying to bash myself into shape, when my view of “god” is expansive enough to include me.

    ace article, b

    • Yes, the ‘bashing ourselves into shape’ is covered by one of the new flower essences just about to be released. It covers ‘soul anger’ – the resentment that builds up in you because you try to force your unfoldment and push yourself to grow…

  3. Nice i really love this. It did bring some uncomfortable things up…… which is interesting. Perhaps it’s time to stop doing course after course after course afte course or two courses at once………..
    i feel there’s a pattern here. Thanks

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