Psychologists tell us that human personality is almost formed by the age of five, contending that if we have received enough love and acceptance as a child we will grow up with a positive outlook towards life and others and vice-e-versa. Spiritual masters contend that a childhood full of love also forms a healthy image of and a positive relationship with God.
Psychologist Edward Edinger in his book Ego and Archetype states “infants have an implicit assumption of deity”. From the moment a child is born, it thinks that it is the centre of the universe. Spiritual author Thelma Hall in, Too Deep for Words, elaborating on it writes, “The crying infant is comforted; hungry, it is fed. Its every need is catered to for its very survival and growth; everything is given, nothing demanded of it”, and adds: “This idyllic state is relatively short-lived… it (the child) is challenged soon enough when other centres of the universe collide with its expectations and demands. And so the long process of fabricating a defence system begins, protecting and preserving the illusion. Devious and elaborate ways are found to ‘get my way’, often by running roughshod over others”. Hall concludes, “This basic egocentrism is opposed to God and other-centredness, and is in effect a resistance to love, the source and meaning of our being.”
I believe that walking the spiritual path is nothing but reversing this deeply human tendency of catering to “me, mine and myself” and turning towards God. It does call for “sadhana” — a spiritual discipline. John’s gospel, referring to Jesus’ growing popularity among people that John the Baptist was enjoying before Jesus appeared on the scene, says of Jesus, “He must increase, I must decrease”.
It is much like Arjuna in the Bhagvadgita, who had a similar experience when proceeding to the battlefield — Lord Krishna took over his fears and his ego and instructed him, among other things, about “nishkama karma yoga” — “work without expecting its fruits”. And this is not easy for us who mostly aim at success, power, wealth and ego.
In Christian spirituality, it is also called “dying to self” or as Hall and other spiritual writers call it, “dying to false self” so that one can anchor one’s life on the true self. Jesus summed that up saying, “Unless a grain of wheat falls on the ground and dies, it cannot bear fruit”. And it is by focusing on our “true self” that we find God, because as the Bible says, “God created us in His own image and likeness”.
No wonder then that one of the great Christian teachers — St Augustine, having found his true self in God, prayed, “You have made us for yourself oh God and our hearts are restless until they rest in you.”