In the first part of our life we are driven to understand, to have our individual point of views, to define what is important to us and to develop abilities. Then with maturity some realize that the rest of their lives would not bring anything really new, a few additions here and there, some more recognition from the outside and possibly some more money. Some realize that most of what we learned is a random assortment of information that has become our personal prison, that determines what we like and dislike, what we choose to do or what we do not even try to do.
This classification of things as black or white happens everywhere but is most obvious in religious doctrines. So much so that what has been assigned to be good like poverty, chastity, solitude, charity… has always found its extreme followers. This extreme pursuit of only one polarity will only load certain believes with energy, strengthen the Ego and tighten the prison.
Some thought, as in Advaita, the way out of this dilemma was to “believe” that only non-duality is real and that any “good and bad” are all creations of the Ego and therefore equally un-real.
The question in their teachings always come up “but if everything is equally part of the ONE/SELF/DIVINE OCEAN what should I choose when I have the choice?“ and the answer is usually something like “it does not matter – just choose, don’t judge yourself for what you choose” . This fits very much the American idea of “take it easy” and this might be the way those who have gone through the Ego collapse see the world, it is not of much value to those who are on the way.
Therefore it was always an important aspect of real spiritual traditions that they would challenge strong contemporary believes in general and that a teacher would recognize and challenge his disciple’s pet ideas/believes/attachment in particular, no matter if they were sweet or acid.
Such power was given to spiritual traditions and teachers, that of course many were abused by the Ego of those in control. But the majority of those who submit their own will to a spiritual authority will never the less make a profit, as they work hard. That means they invest energy into the process and at the same time their Ego is challenged by the rules of the authority and is going through a polishing process.
For example all missionary work had in essence this purpose and not to bring some religion to those who believed in something else. Your Ego is challenged to a max by being confronted with so much newness in the lives of people and other cultures you meet, that many become very clueless about what is right and wrong (of course there are many exceptions that actually stop questioning). This is a polishing process that cannot happen in the coziness of a church or your own home and the end result is similar to that of an Ego collapse but the process is more gradual and the result more solid.
The experience of an Even Ego I describe in part 5