The Strange Mysteries of "Conscious" Living: Enlightenment and Poverty

in spirituality •  11 months ago

My wife and I have spent several decades working with-- and around-- the self-improvement, New Age, spiritual, metaphysics and "Consciousness" communities.

Some people find this rather too "woo-woo" for their liking, but I think there are some gold nuggets of wisdom to be found if you're willing to dig between all the quackery and clever jargon.

Turning Your Back on All Things Material... Why?

Please understand, I can lay no claims to being an "enlightened" person. However, I am a keen observer, and have spent a lot of time studying the human psyche and people's motivations... both individually, and as a group.

Sunset, Northern California Coast

One of the commonly held beliefs that seems to run through the consciousness and New Age Communities is this notion that in order to become "evolved" and "enlightened" you must turn your back on all things material. In other words, self-imposed (or not) poverty is almost a condition of becoming an enlightened person. If you have money and are actually interested in making a decent living... then you can't possibly be "conscious."

Frankly, I have some issues with this perspective. Why?

For starters, any "extreme" point of view is seldom very "enlightened." Forcing yourself to adopt an ascetic (or minimalist) lifestyle and eschewing "all things material" merely in the name of enlightenment is really not very different from relentlessly pursuing material wealth. Think about it: These are merely extreme opposite sides of the same coin.

Finding Balance

Now, I'm not claiming that a non-material lifestyle is necessarily a "bad" thing. 

Blooming buckeye

That's not the point here. The point is that someone who "martyrs themselves" on the altar of rejecting all wealth because they believe it makes them "noble" or "enlightened" is barking up the wrong tree. True wisdom has little to do with what you have and a lot to do with who you are.

And simply "looking the part," according to some pre-packaged notion of what an enlightened person is "supposed to look like" strikes me as rather ridiculous.

Money (aka "things material") is neither evil nor bad, by itself. Money is merely a "medium of exchange." And if you take a closer look at the old truism, the "root of all evil" is not money, it is the love of money. 

Think about this, for a moment: What exactly is the motivation of a person obsessed with money? Most likely, they are trying to "prove" something-- either to the world, or to themselves... or perhaps to both. Either way, it's ultimately an "image issue," and it's based in an inner fear of "what if I DON'T _________?" (fill in the blank). 

Now think about what "chosen poverty" represents: Again, here is someone trying to prove something through their choices-- either to the world, or to themselves, or to both. Again, it's an "image issue," based in the fear the person won't be perceived as "enlightened" if he/she has money.

Evening light, Marin Co. California

True wisdom and enlightenment isn't about "proving" anything, with your actions. When you are truly evolved there is nothing to "prove;" nobody to "impress." You embrace simply being who you are... withOUT all that external noise and worry about "image" and "what others think."

Now, choosing to live a simple life can definitely have its benefits for those on a spiritual path. If you have to spend less time worrying about earning money to pay your bills, it means you'll have more time to devote to your spiritual explorations.

But that's quite different from trying to project a specific image through the rejection of wealth.

How About You? Have you known any spiritual people who "chose to be poor" because it supported their path? Did it feel authentic to you? Do you believe that rejecting material wealth is a "requirement" to reach higher states of consciousness and enlightenment? Leave a comment-- share your experiences-- be part of the conversation!

Animated banner created by @zord189

(As usual, all text and images by the author, unless otherwise credited. This is original content, created expressly for Steemit)
Created at 180224 23:03 PST

Authors get paid when people like you upvote their post.
If you enjoyed what you read here, create your account today and start earning FREE STEEM!
Sort Order:  

One of the commonly held beliefs that seems to run through the consciousness and New Age Communities is this notion that in order to become "evolved" and "enlightened" you must turn your back on all things material. In other words, self-imposed (or not) poverty is almost a condition of becoming an enlightened person. If you have money and are actually interested in making a decent living... then you can't possibly be "conscious."

That is utter bullshit. One part of it that has truth is that we need to let go of our attachment to having things, the attachment to desire for material things as a way to fulfill us, as a way to give or bring us meaning and value.

The love of money, the desire for money, as you say, is the problem, and that i s a problem in consciousness, not with money. The attachment to the desire for money. Rejecting money or wealth is not a requirement for evolving consciousness. Letting go of attachment is a healthy way to progress and simply life to forcus on what matters more ;)

I'm pretty "minimalistic" I guess, but not hard core into it. I have things, I just don't have lots of things. I have things that are useful. Computer, desk, clothes, etc. A car is a burden in the city where you have to pay for it, pay for parking, pay for insurance... Living in the country it's more practical to have.


Agreed, it's utter bullshit. Lot of high and mighty "evolved" people hate to be called on that, though. It's a bit like the old *"you have no ego-attachment except your ego-attachment to not having an ego-attachment" dilemma I am wont to point people at when they start droning on in certain ways.

I like money because I like electricity and indoor plumbing, and I don't like mooching and couch surfing in the mistaken guise that I am practicing some form of latter day Transhumanism. I like having a car because I live in a semi-rural area and am two miles from the nearest bus stop and the weather here is too dodgy to ride a bike everywhere, all the time. I don't own-- and never have owned -- $150 trainers because some sports star put their name on them and somehow that makes me "cool, by association." My last four pair of shoes came from a thrift shop.

In the 60's many of my parent's friends were playing that stupid game. Even for a young boy the hypocrisy was glaring. There were a few exceptions. The spirit these exuded was totally different. Living a simple life without shame or judgement, they did not feel the need to "preach" or emphasize their "sacrifice". These were the ones that actually influenced me most.


What you experienced is probably close to what I experienced: People who were more concerned about the appearance of their spiritual and evolved nature than actually living those tenets in a functional way.


Authenticity of others is what makes us believe them. No need for preaching or long impressive speech.

I really enjoy your writing @denmarkguy. I too have been involved some metaphysics and "Consciousness" communities for a number of years. I think consciousness is one of the great mysteries and frontiers that as of yet cannot be explained by traditional science.

But to the point of your post, I agree that money itself is not bad, but the love of it is. The more I meditate the more I try to follow my thoughts and emotions, and I've found for myself, that when stripped down fear is the underlining motive in almost of my negative emotions and actions.

Being conscious of this, I'm now trying to replace fear with love. It's not easier however.

You know I have never met a spiritual person who chose to be poor. Or maybe it would be more accurate to say living in poverty rather than financially poor.

I have known more than enough people claiming to be be super spiritual while robbing people blind.

Isn't all this talk about being spiritual trying to describe more useful states and ways of being other than the stock standard dog eat dog survival of fittest, competitive state sponsored conditioning we have all been subject to.

Beautiful photography really amazing photos..I think you provisional photographer sir..Really amazing...thanks for sharing...

sour grapes.
I've been poor and 'not so poor'
I much prefer the later.

Tapi itu sangat berbeda dengan mencoba memproyeksikan citra tertentu melalui penolakan kekayaan benar-banar postingan yang sangat bagus. # @denmarkguy, saya sangat senang membaca blog anda.

That's pretty cool.

There are many Christians in Africa who believe that the less their wealth, the less time they need to manage them and as such the more time they will spend concentrating on their spirituality. These ones are quick to reference the "apostles of old" who according to them, did not have much material wealth.

I am not criticizing them, neither am I sharing their view. I believe that financial freedom is the best freedom anyone can ever have. It is liberating, exhilarating, rewarding and tranquilizing.

I don't believe that rejecting material wealth is a requirement to reach higher states of consciousness and enlightenment? As a matter of fact, I believe everyone should strive to attain the highest degree of financial freedom possible. No higher state of consciousness and enlightenment can be compared to that feeliing you have when you help somebody in need and put that beautiful smile on his face.

fabulous one. love to read it

the shot looks really amazing

Sir your great, I would like too say you thanks for everything.
I respect you. You can write everything pretty well.
I find the sweetness in your writing.
You are an outstanding personality.
Thanks for all your activities.

Beautiful pict

Thanks for sharing with us a wonderful content. Like you i always believe less is beautiful. I have a friend, he makes Documentary film. He lives an ordinary life & Always down to Earth. I really believe his feelings are real & authentic.
I Upvote & Resteem your original post

As someone struggling with genuine, unwanted poverty, the "chosen poverty" people are some of the most oblivious, privileged people I've ever met.
And I don't mean anyone who chooses a simple life because that is what makes them happy, I mean the people who aren't really impoverished but live like they are and trumpet it like flagellants in the middle ages having a parade.
It is, as you say, an image they want to project of "enlightenment," when usually they are arrogant and self-important.
Spirituality is very important to me, but I've been poor my entire life, and it's awful. I really would like a way out. I don't want a lavish life, I do actually want a simple life, but simplicity to me includes it being simple to have my needs met (whereas when you are poor it makes that a struggle).

Spirituality is not about “not possessing” rather “non attachment”. An enlightended person is not attached to both material and immaterial possessions including spirituality itself.

He is not even attached to a self image so there is nothing to prove to others.

From my perspective as a Christian, two sayings come to mind. First, Jesus:

"'s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions." - Ref.

And then the apostle Paul:

" I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need." - Ref.

I have found both of these sayings to be very true personally. I often struggle with the clutter that careless, disorganized possessiveness has brought into my life. And I also find that I've needed to be able to deal both with surpluses and shortages.

Thanks for another thought provoking article!



Great efforts love you boss

Congratulations @denmarkguy! You have completed some achievement on Steemit and have been rewarded with new badge(s) :

Award for the number of posts published
Award for the number of comments
Award for the number of upvotes received

Click on any badge to view your own Board of Honor on SteemitBoard.

To support your work, I also upvoted your post!
For more information about SteemitBoard, click here

If you no longer want to receive notifications, reply to this comment with the word STOP

Upvote this notification to help all Steemit users. Learn why here!

I have been on both ends of the spectrum and I much prefer being balanced somewhere in the middle.

That's pretty cool to know thanks for the tips by the way, have a nice..


Begone, spammer.