Sacred Selfishness

This is the title of a book that has contributed significantly to my personal learning in the past few months. I plan to go through it again soon, as I find it gives me a lot to process. The full title is: “Sacred Selfishness; A Guide to living a life of substance” by Bud Harris, Ph. D. Here are a few tidbits from just the Intro to whet your appetite and give you a sense of what he writes about:


“There are two general kinds of selfishness in life. One is sickly, and we often refer to it as egotism or individualism. Its practitioners are emotionally hungry for power, starved for affirmation, and drive to use and impose on us for self-serving ends. They steal our energy and vitality. Our consumer-driven society fosters sickly selfishness because it thrives on teaching us that we always want or need more of some product to feel good about ourselves.”

Sacred selfishness is the second kind of selfishness. It means making the commitment to valuing ourselves and our lives enough to pursue the decision to become people of substance… what … Ralph Waldo Emerson refers to as ‘character–a reserved force which acts directly by presence, and without means… it works with most energy in the smallest companies and in private relationships.’ Sacred selfishness teaches us to love life, and its practitioners give energy, vitality, and hope to the people around them.”

Sacred selfishness causes us to step outside of the everyday… pressures of getting life “right.” … — page 1 & 2

“… I will use the phrase becoming a person of substance to summarize the characteristics acquired during this quest… quest stories begin when something of value has been lost by a person, people or kingdom. The Star Wars movies continue to hold the interest of young and old because they are about the themes of many of our quests…”

“I felt stagnant, impotent, and unauthentic in my depression. Nothing in my life was able to evoke spiritual meaning, passion and unknown potentials.”

“The oldest quest stories show the pattern of stepping out of the everyday world, even when we have been successful in it, to begin the journey toward a greater experience of life.” — pg 4

“Our enduring stories remind us that our searches are driven by both disasters and visions. They are lonely and difficult outer quests that are also metaphors for our inner quests. They are reexperienced in every age and become available to any of us who want more than conventional lives or whose conventional lives fail us.”

“The Hindu and the Christian mystics often call the quest a search for the Self, and the Swiss psychiatrist Carl Jung named it the process of individuation.” — pg 5

“The Grail, the vessel that held the blood of Christ, represents the source of our lost personal and spiritual values.” … guides us to realize it is a personal quest. Each knight must begin the journey alone by entering the forest at a place where there is no previous path. … the Grail symbolized the spiritual essence that energized an authentic life.

“… embarking on such a quest … faced with the questions: What makes me feel and act as I do? What is my purpose here on Earth? What is my destiny? … How can I have achieved … and still be unhappy?”   — pg 6

The Hero with a Thousand Faces … teaches us that there is a timeless symbolic path … The stories that disclose this path begin with failure. In their examples we can see that whenever a culture (an interior personal culture as well as an exterior collective one) is collapsing, stagnating, fragmenting, and declining, the mythic hero or heroine is called to leave the conventional wisdom and practises of society to undergo the trials and tribulations of becoming a person of individual substance.” … renewed personal consciousness” — page 7

Most journeys begin with some sort of failure, threat, or feeling of vulnerability such as job loss, marital crisis, loss of someone close, personal dissatisfaction, or deep disappointment. … these stories … brought me hope. They gave me the knowledge that so many people in the past and present had or were having this experience in their own ways that it was part of being human. Hope, knowing I was not alone in my situation, and trusting that with work it could lead to a deeper experience of meaning and of life as well as a more substantial personality were all very helpful to me…”

“many people are afraid to look within themselves.”

“Personal renewals begin as inner journeys, and substance is built within ourselves before it begins to affect the outer world. The process of inner self-knowledge both softens and strengthens us and serves to help us love and appreciate life and other people. … When the inner quest brings change we can be comforted by knowing it is authentic…” — pg 8 & top of 9

“To be a person of substance means to know and stand upon one’s essential nature and to be aware that there is a nature of all things that underlies their outward manifestation.”

“In Western history the men and women who took first steps down new roads had to begin their journeys by stepping outside of the social character of their times.”

“… following society’s beaten path often leads to a loss of soul, a lust for power, and the destruction of human values.”

“Two thousand years ago the Christian faith enjoined us to love God with all of our heart mind, and soul (Matthew 22:37-40). And to love our neighbour as ourselves.” — pg 9

“As we progressed into modern times, rationalism, scientism, and technology ushered in a mechanical approach to life that values only what’s concrete and measurable. For instance, our self-esteem depends upon how we measure our success and acquisitions. … In relationships, the concern with how often we make love, argue, or don’t argue and how we manage as couples to get everything organized and carried out often drains the passion and love out of those relationships. The emphasis that our religious institutions have put on proper behaviour as a measure of spirituality has smothered much of the heart and soul out of these organizations. It’s apparent that many people have turned away from religion in their hearts even though some of them have continued to observe its forms and trappings.”

“However, we are born with certain necessities and potentials latent in our personalities. Among these inborn characteristics is the need for a system of orientation and devotion that provides purpose, meaning, and support for our lives. We usually call such a system “a religion” whether it has to do with a concept of God or not. …”

“The practise of sacred selfishness means that we must pay careful attention to every aspect of our lives. We must seek to discover our religious or spiritual values and how they are guiding the way we live. This means we must find out if we have developed a secret religion–one which guides our lives without our realizing it.” — pg 10

“… As our society has lost touch with the transformational spiritual aspects of religion that lead to higher consciousness, we have left ourselves open to idolatry. By idolatry I mean having human-made secular values such as the search for satisfaction and arousal through having an enviable or powerful reputation, achievement, or material and sexual gratification, which possess us unconsciously and become our religion without our knowing it.”

[[ piece on how we’ve become slaves to our economic systems]]

“As we have become spiritually and psychologically impoverished, our search in life has degenerated into a search for thrills, indulgences, and satisfactions rather than for joy and meaning. The depression I felt and that many are feeling today has a major dimension that isn’t due to childhood experience or biological heredity. It’s due to the effects of a society that has lost its foundation in spirituality and the values of the heart.”

“The great teachings … from our religious traditions are the most profound challenges to human development of which I know. to understand and live these instructions about love during the evolving period of a lifespan is a life’s work in itself. This work is more demanding than belonging to a “follow the rules” or a “feel good” religion. Without a deep understanding of human nature and our spiritual needs, religious institutions cannot possibly educate people to really figure out what it means to love ourselves, our neighbor, God, and the stranger.” — pg 11

I hope that gives you a good idea of what he is about in the book. Some of his wording and approach has a bit of a New Age feel to it, or a psychobabble air, but I have found I really appreciate the themes and principles he lays out.


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