Here’s a very interesting, and somewhat challenging, quote from a Jewish Blogger:
It seems to me that [spiritualism] encourages self-involved people to become more self-involved. Spiritual types often talk about the “universe” in the same way that a certain kind of Christian or Jew sees the hand of God in every banal event, or a certain kind of New Yorker broadcasts every little conversation he’s had with his shrink. And while these examples may show that narcissists are drawn to whatever feeds their narcissism, I do think that spiritualists are more likely to confuse causality with their own egotism. I’ve never heard of anyone visiting a psychic in order to learn how to be more generous with other people.
— Gordon Haber, The False Science
Okay, my point in passing this on is not to take potshots at spiritualists or psychics. Rather, this struck a nerve with me because I’ve wondered the same thing about good old Christian contemplation. It’s the old navel-gazing issue: at what point does meditation, or prayer, or other practices associated with the contemplative life stop being forces for liberation and holiness, and instead simply function as ways of self-referential, narcissistic ego-building? “Look at me, I’m so spiritual, I pray the entire divine office and sit in silence for an hour every day.”
Teresa of Avila insisted that the only sure measure of progress in the spiritual life is the question of how we love. You want to find an authentic mystic or “spiritual master” to mentor you? Look for someone who is truly loving, kind, has healthy boundaries, a living conscience about matters such as justice and environmental sustainability, and who has a keen awareness of his or her own brokenness and woundedness (read: imperfection), but who is nevertheless trying to heal and grow.