There is a great big lie that exists on the planet today. (Well, okay, there are many, but we’re just going to talk about this one for now - and it is a big one.) This particular lie is a binary lie that we can call the lie of better-than/worse-than. It could also be regarded as the illusion of superiority, or a belief in hierarchy. No matter what we call it, this is a lie that is regarded by many, if not most people, to be true, and in this article I will do my best to expose it for what it is - a complete fabrication. I will also give some specific tips at the end of this article to help you start to dismantle this false construct in your mind, which is the only place it truly exists.
At it’s core, this lie would have you believe that you are better than or worse than another person or group of people (fill in your own specific person or group), based on the criteria of opinions, beliefs, morals, ethics, actions, wealth, status, authority, etc. There are many, many ways in which we can measure this, and rank ourselves and others as better than or worse than each other, and yet not one of them is true. You are no better or worse than anyone else on this planet, living or dead, saint or sinner, regardless of what you think. Fortunately for us, our beliefs and opinions do not alter the truth.
To understand why we are not better or worse than anyone else, however we wish to measure that, we must first define who “we” are. To do that, we will start with who we are not. We are not anything that is not permanent. This means that you are not your name, your body, your relationships, or your status. You are not your job, your health, your beliefs or your feelings. You are not your thoughts, your race, your gender, or your nationality. You are nothing you can lose, nothing that can be taken away from you. So what is left? What is permanent about us?
In a word: our essence. That is the only thing about us that lasts forever, the only thing we could say, in truth, is who and what we are, once everything else is stripped away. That is our permanence. We are pure consciousness. We are spirit. We are loving awareness, the great I AM observer, an eternal soul, a child of God - there are many terms used to describe this aspect of ourselves, and it doesn’t matter which one you prefer. The point it, this is who we really are. The reason most of us don’t experience ourselves in this way is because we are too busy identifying with our temporary-selves, known also as the ego-personality, the separate-self, or my favorite term, the small-self (and there are many other names for this, as well). This is the part of us that exists in a body, with a specific personality, located in time and space. Yes, we are having this localized experience, but if we think this is the sum-total of who we are, we are missing out on a much bigger picture - one that, were we to identify with it, would ultimately set us free from all of the lies, illusions, and limitations of this world (aka: the truth shall set you free). But until such time, we will inevitably cling to illusions in its place, in an attempt to find order, meaning, and purpose in a world devoid of any of these things.
One such illusion that has arisen out of the ignorance and confusion of who we are is this illusion of better than/worse than. This illusion gives us the compulsion to rank, rate, exalt, condemn, judge, and evaluate everyone and everything we see. In doing so, the small-self gets to make itself feel big, powerful, and in control - God-like, really - something it endlessly craves - as it decides the worth and value of everything and everyone it sees. After all, as it’s reasoning goes, we can only be great or terrible, weak or powerful, compared to someone else - so we are constantly lifting ourselves up and destroying others - or vice versa - lifting others up and putting ourselves down. This is what is meant by the saying “We suffer our own comparisons.” As long as we continue to identify with the small-self, we will see everyone else as a small-self, and will continue to live in a world of praise-and-blame, sometimes feeling good about ourselves, sometimes feeling bad, depending on this ever-changing hierarchy of worth that exists only in our minds. This keeps us trapped, trying to determine our own worth by constantly determining the worth of everyone else, based on whatever information may be available to us, whatever mood we happen to be in, what external authorities tell us, or a host of other factors, none of which are rooted in truth. How could this possibly be a reliable system?
“Souls love. That’s what souls do. Egos don’t, but souls do. Become a soul, look around, and you’ll be amazed - all the beings around you are souls. Be one, see one.”
And yet, this system is all-pervasive in our world. It plays out in so many ways, your head will spin once you start to think about it, observe it, and become aware of it. Here are some obvious examples, as well as some more subtle ones I have noticed lately:
- the culture of celebrity-worship, gossip magazines, tabloids, etc.
- awards shows which create artificial competitions between subjective works of art and artists, deciding which are the best
- the elite, the top 1%, or the “billionaire class” holding most of the wealth, power, decision-making ability, looking down on the poor, or the “masses”
- many religions believe they are the right religion, all others are wrong (i.e. the belief that the Jews are “God’s chosen people” - implying some kind of superiority)
- many non-religious, spiritual or “New Age” people, thinking they are better than non-spiritual, traditionally religious, or “unenlightened” people
- intellectuals looking down on the uneducated
- the existence of caste systems in certain societies
- nationalists who believe that their country is the best (USA! USA!)
- racists who believe their race is superior (i.e. white supremacy)
- the culture around some reality TV shows (i.e. Jersey Shore, Intervention, Teen Mom) where people derive a false-sense of superiority that their lives are better than the people on TV
- the way many people lash out at politicians, especially Trump, thinking they are the scum of the earth
- the ancient idea of royalty, kings and queens, chosen due to their superior bloodline
- looking down on someone because you consider their job to be of a lower station (garbage men, janitors, gas station attendant, etc.)
- the way we avoid, dismiss, and ignore homeless people
- beauty pageants, rating women based on looks
I could go on and on. As you can see, the binary lie of better-than/worse-than is deeply embedded in our collective psyche. Sometimes it is big and obvious, other times more subtle. But it is always there, and impossible to get away from as long as we identify with the small-self. As long as we believe we are our bodies, our minds, our personalities, our ever-changing thoughts, feelings, and beliefs, we will be acting out of this very unreliable, and often quite dangerous, belief system, in an attempt to know who we are. But this method will never get us where we want to go.
“God is as incapable of making the perishable as the ego is of making the eternal.”
-A Course in Miracles
Here’s the Good News
We can free ourselves from this lie. In order to do that, first, we need to simply become aware of it (which is what I’m trying to do here). We need to examine where it exists in us, how we tell ourselves we are better than or worse than others based on whatever criteria we are accustomed to using, and why we do it. We need to be vigilant in finding these beliefs, views, and habitual thoughts within ourselves. We need to look at the core issues and our deep insecurities. The simple act of observing this will go a long way in starting to break it up, dismantling our reliance on it, and belief in it. I have noticed this to be true in my own life.
Next, we need to re-identify who we think we are. To do that, we need to cultivate a method, or a practice, to engage in certain experiences that will help us to transcend our small-selves, to connect to our hearts and our greater I AM awareness, to see the bigger picture. As we do this, we shift our perspective, gaining clarity, wisdom and insights that can help us to create new ways in which to see ourselves, each other, and the world. There is no one way to get there, no prescribed path that is right for everyone, but some time-tested ways are: meditation, prayer, sacred singing, mantras, rebirthing, psychedelics, sensory-deprivation, ecstatic dance, sacred ceremony, tantric practices, and vows of silence - just to name a few. These methods, and others like them, are of vital importance, because there simply is no substitute for direct experience. These practices, and others like them, can open the door to let us slip out of ourselves, for a time being, and give us a view of the greater Self that we cannot see from inside the small-self. So it is imperative, if one wishes to break free of this illusion, to have some method of regularly stepping out of it to gain a broader perspective.
Here, I feel the need to clarify something that may confuse some people: the small-self is not bad, evil, or to be “overcome.” It is our vehicle for experiencing life on the plane, for expressing ourselves, and it is a beautiful thing. It has an appropriate role and function. It is, in many ways, to be celebrated and enjoyed to the fullest. All we are talking about here is what happens when we over-identify as it, and think that the small-self is the truth of who we are.
Many people are (finally!) waking up to the awareness that they, and everyone else, and everything around them, is Spirit. Many people are remembering that all of life is sacred. Put another way, nothing is sacred because everything is sacred. All is holy, all is of Spirit, but somewhere along the way we forgot this (described as the Fall of Man in the Bible, Adam and Eve kicked out of “paradise”) and started believing in the illusion of a hierarchy, literally judging and evaluating everything in our awareness (as we assumed God was also doing). Only then did we need to conceptualize of “sacred”, but only because we clearly believed that some things (or perhaps most things) were not sacred. This could translate to the old idea that God is in church, but not in a casino, or a strip-club. But the truth is that God (or Spirit) is everywhere, in everything, in everyone, and so all is holy, sacred, and equal. This even applies to all of nature - to the birds, the trees, the clouds, the rocks - we are better than none of it. Spirit cannot regard one part of itself as better than another because it is all connected, all one. There is no better than or worse than except in our small-self minds. And that’s the good news - if it only exists in our minds, then to change the world, all we have to do is change is our mind.