Spiritual Memes – Insightful of Confusing?
“Meme: an idea, behaviour, style, or usage that spreads from person to person within a culture.”
Since the advent of Facebook, we have been exposed to a multitude of spiritual memes that have become part of our daily lexicon. When a friend goes through difficult times, all too quickly we might refer to one of these memes or concepts, thinking that we are helping them move through their challenge. However, some of these popular phrases might only be used in a casual manner not weighing the impact they may have on others. We can quote these adages off the cuff, believing we have provided a solution, when we have only scratched the surface. On the other hand, some spiritual memes are extremely profound in their simplicity and stand on their own.
These concepts are so ingrained in us that they have become the psalms of contemporary spirituality. Sometimes, these axioms are used so resolutely, they feel more dogmatic than spiritual to me. There is always a core of truth to these memes, but when we hastily perceive them in a black-or-white manner, and claim them as sacrosanct, we have not explored their many layers. Between black and white, or darkness and light, there are many shades and nuances in spirituality and the complexity of human consciousness. Rather than seeing humanness and spirituality in a dual way, viewing this on a continuum will holistically integrate our perceptions and provide more insight.
One of my favourite TV shows, for this reason, is the drama-comedy “Lucifer” wherein the ‘devil’ (Thomas Ellis) comes back to earth since he is tired of Hell and having to punish evil people. Instead, he wants humans to experience the full power of their desires and passions. Biblically, Lucifer means the “bearer of light,” or Venus the “Morningstar.” He became a fallen angel when he rebelled against God’s rule.
What I love about this TV show is the interplay of light and dark. A favourite scene shows Lucifer posing as a priest in a church confessional and giving a woman her penance – “10 Bloody Marys and a shag” – because she has ‘bad’ thoughts about her chauffeur. In another scene, Lucifer is angry at God because his ‘Dad’ seems to treat sinners and saints in the same way. This sometimes reminds me of the outcomes in our legal system. Case in point, let’s look at some of these spiritual memes, explore their layers of essence, and look at both sides of the coin.
‘You are Not a Victim – You’re a Survivor!’
True, but not so true. The label of ‘victim’ became popular within the 1980s co-dependency literature and recovery movement. Simplistically, it means that we should not pity ourselves or blame others, but take responsibility for what happens to us. But in reality, we are not blameable for another’s abusive behaviour and wrongdoings through which we may have been victimized.
Jeff Brown, author of Spiritual Graffiti, states: “There are victims everywhere. Don’t believe the ones who say there are no victims. They are merely fleeing their own unresolved memories and issues. Until we can fully embrace our victimhood, until we can feel seen and supported in healing it, we will just perpetuate victimization as a way of being. It’s one thing to discourage a victim identity, but let’s not throw the whole victim out with the bath water. They have already suffered enough. It doesn’t mean we are broken on a core level when we acknowledge that a part of us feels broken and unmended. We need to heal the heart, not to pretend that it’s not wounded. Only then will we begin to create a world where there are fewer victims.”
If we leap to being a survivor without doing our inner work, we will not heal the part that was violated and victimized.
‘Everyone is a Mirror’
This meme implies that if you dislike something in someone, it is a reflection of you that needs examination, which might not be true. You may not care for a person who constantly needs to be the centre of attention and monopolizes the conversation, but this does not mean it is mirroring you. It is what it is, especially when everyone notices it. Observation does not equal judgement. On the flipside, when something really triggers you and it has a strong emotional charge, it may mirror an aspect of you that you are unaware of. Sometimes, the people who accuse others of being controlling are more controlling themselves.
‘Our Spiritual Journey is Spiral’
This meme is profound and once we understand it, we will be less likely to judge where we or others are at on their path. When we first make changes to our patterns, we may think ‘I’ve finally got this!’ But later on, much to our dismay, old patterns may resurface for further exploration. We, then, may beat ourselves up because we did not get it right in the first place. Our journey tends to be spiral, not linear, as we continue to discover ourselves and ‘peel back the layers of the onion’ to determine what is concealing and distorting our true nature.
Generally, the closer we get to peeling off another layer, the harder it may seem to heal and transform the pattern. It may be even more painful to embrace now, and it needs to become an exercise in self-love and non-judgement. If we accept our hurts, we can heal them. Often, when we have done much inner work, a residue of the wound will still reside within our psyche. This requires awareness so that our triggers don’t again overtake us and we respond rather than react to the situation. Still, in overcoming the grip of your wounds, you have become a stronger and more beautiful soul. A deeper more profound you results than in just ‘passing go.’
In contrast to the spiral journey is the rare experience of mystical conversion, which involves sudden and swift transformation to a more evolved way of being. St. Paul (Saul) is the most familiar example of this when he is ‘blinded by the light’ on the road to Damascus.
It is important for us to be reflective before using a common spiritual meme, as it may be more confusing than insightful. I will be exploring more of these concepts with you in my future Vitality columns, writing from the perspective that as we grow, our spiritual beliefs need to evolve and deepen.