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Rules, Rigidity and Righteousness

We yesterday had a visit of a friend. Part of our talk was about the way to deal with rules and rigidity on the spiritual path.

For years my wife and I had been involved with a group where we followed quite strict rules. There was the feeling that if you don’t stick to them you will lose the path to the light and get lost in the wilderness. This was coupled with a feeling of fear and guilt – and some more subtle psychological catches. We finally revolted against it, left the group, transformed concepts – and felt well. We got guidance in this, which helped us a lot.

My friend, too, had observed these mechanisms with different friends and groups where she had been involved in. It seems that these patterns are quite common:
You are striving to lead a good live, and you develop concepts about what this is all about. Others also tell you what should be done and you adopt to what you hear, especially from people of whom you think that they are wiser than you are. And you adopt things which you take over without discrimination, or what is worse, with a logic explaining why you should follow this way.
You think, this will lead you to enlightenment, to salvation or whatever you think being the goal of your journey. And you follow – follow like a sheep, not knowing or seeing better.

There will be no harm if the one whom you follow is a real guide, knowing the path and its whereabouts – but mostly he, and you, just imagine it. You get caught in a loop. A prison of your own concepts and convictions.
My wife compared it with Luther revolting against the Catholic church, which was deciding about sin , forgiveness and salvation, this resulting in the reformation. The wisdom teachings say, there is no sin, just ignorance and the results of your acts out of not knowing better.

People can be very “piously” follow their concepts to the point of torturing themselves. There are parallels to anorexia, where individuals afflicted by it think of polluting themselves by eating. The self-destructive tendencies become obsessions very difficult to overcome. These grips you find in many contexts of convictions, especially with religion and spirituality, but also in politics: You think you are following “the right way” – and rigidity is the shadow of your conviction. It has to do with the “Power of Habit“, and here you can read a bit more about it.

Reflections
Reflections of reality – a Norwegian fjord

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