Snob – What’s so bad about being one?

I’m afraid I am a bit of a snob. My wife pointed out to me that I put on airs in the way I give my postal address. I live in England on the border of beautiful countryside and industrial conurbation. I snootily choose to use the shire county rather than the metropolitan county as my address. Although the former is correct for where I live, using the latter would be much more sensible. The nearest postal sorting office is in within the neighbouring town which is in the conurbation just over the county boundary. That is where all my post goes.

Mind you, when it comes to social pretence, I am not in the same league as say some characters in the novel Pride and Prejudice. I’m thinking of Rev.William Collins who admires the wealth and social position of his patron. This woman is the condescending and overbearing Lady Catherine de Bourgh.  His snobbishness is identification with those who are his ‘social betters’.

Also comes to mind is Miss Caroline Bingley, a “fine women, with an air of decided fashion”. This social snob belittles the society living in the small town of Meryton near where the novel is mainly set.

So what’s so bad about being a snob? Where’s the harm in admiring one’s betters and looking down on one’s inferiors?

The snob values things of the world

snobThe snob may want to feel self-important by identifying with those who the world regards as worthy of esteem. One example are those with the social status of wealth.

The property snob takes an interest in the social status of the area in which he or she lives. This concern is greater than with the size, attractiveness or other qualities of the house.

 “The love of the world, … consists …in setting the heart on riches, and suffering one’s self to be withdrawn and led away by the world from spiritual love, which is love towards the neighbour.” (Emanuel Swedenborg, spiritual philosopher)

The snob wants to feel superior

However, the main problem, to my mind, with being any sort of snob, is identifying oneself with those seen as a cut above others in terms of one’s abilities and experiences. A condescending and disdainful manner shows this egotism. The fashion snob looks down on inferior tastes in clothes, home design, music or whatever. The film snob is likely to dismiss any films made in the English language by the main film studios. He or she will disdain most newspaper film review sections as being insufficiently ‘au fait’ with the ‘real issues’ of cinema. The intellectual snob looks down with a superior attitude on those with uneducated views and opinions.

Likewise, the spiritual snob looks down on those with teachers who know less.

“I have seen white-robed teachers actually turn up their noses at students who ask how to take their yoga practice into their finances, because they were tired of money stress.” (Sadie Nardini, spiritual writer)

Being a religious snob

I suppose it’s only natural that when we discover some wonderful thing, we then assume that others should believe it too. If only everybody would read the books I read, use the terminology I use, or adopt the practices I follow, then their lives would be so much better!

The religious snob thinks their particular faith is right and looks down on all other beliefs as mediocre. As if just one person could contain the wisdom of the universe! I would suggest that the snobbish mistake is to assume no other ways of thinking have anything valuable to offer. Can it really be true that only one’s own beliefs are worth listening to?

“We’re all unique, we all have different paths. And what works for one, may not work for another” (Trisha Savoia, spiritual writer)

If you are a person of strong conviction, it rarely works these days to tell people what to think and believe. Why not instead offer suggestions about what one has found good and true for their possible consideration.

The opposite of the snob

I would say it is possible to feel good about oneself without being a snob. In place of identifying with money, social status, power, or reputation, cannot one look to deeper values and higher principles to give a sense of direction and identity?

By feeling above others, I would suggest the snob is looking down on them through the prism of his or her own conceit. Cannot one instead accept people whatever their social background and abilities in their own right?

How to stop being a snob

I believe wanting self-importance doesn’t go with a humble attitude necessary for spirituality. How can you who are a finite being compare with the infinite Source of everything? How about learning from others about this higher reality that is different from your own understanding?

This change would mean giving up an attachment to what belongs to self and the resulting feeling of superiority.

And when we do this, I happen to believe that our higher consciousness becomes active. I have found it is the deeper self that experiences spontaneous illumination during periods of reflection, prayer or meditation. I would say that the experience of this deeper side is a sense of freedom, of expansion, of communication with others and with what is truly real.

It’s like a mystical experience when the person feels at one with all of nature. Is this not when we can feel good about what is present deep within our human soul? The Divine reality that is beyond oneself?

Copyright 2017 Stephen Russell-Lacy
Author of  Heart, Head & Hands  Swedenborg’s perspective on emotional problems

Posted on11th January 2017CategoriesHealing attitudes, Latest post, Spiritual healingTags, , , , , ,s

Muslim attitudes and Western fear.

Most of us will recall where we were on 9/11.

jihadist muslimI was in my studio when the announcement came and, like so many others, knew the world would never be the same again. That afternoon I collected my six year old granddaughter from her after-school club. As we drove away, slowing down at the T junction, a boy, brown skinned (Asian, British Asian, Muslim, who knows) of about eleven, still in his school uniform, was sitting on the road sign. He looked me straight in the eye and grinned. I guess that boy will now be in his twenties. Was he a jihadist Muslim in the making? I’ll never know.

Well the world hasn’t been the same. The bombing of Iraq and Afghanistan, supposedly in order to destroy Islamist jihadists then called Al-Qaida, has probably led to the rise of an even more extreme group in ISIS. Western cities have been attacked by suicide bombers and in our own country we see reports of increasing attacks on innocent Muslim people, usually women wearing the hijab.

People look at what’s happening in the world today and many point to religion as the cause of the world’s conflicts both past and present. Wherever you look, religious persuasions have always been used to justify wars and hateful actions with both sides often believing that ‘God’, ‘Allah’, ‘Jehovah’ – or whatever name they might give to their version of the Divine Creator – is on their side. We have always been adept at creating a god in our own image.

It is said that fear is the opposite of love and that hatred is a symptom of fear; the fear of the oppressed and the fear, and perhaps guilt, of the oppressor. If we use the mountain as a metaphor for the Divine Creator, we are all coming up the mountain from different sides, different cultures and belief systems, Muslim, Hindu, Christian, Buddhist etc that at the ‘extremes’ of the mountain are totally ‘foreign’ to us (how language can be so loaded and appear politically incorrect!) Following that metaphor, it is as we draw up to the Light at the top that differences fade away and there is no longer a place for the shadows of fear and hatred as we see each other as brothers and sisters in the light of Love. In today’s world the top of the mountain seems a long way off.

What can we do about it? Not a lot you might think as we leave our elected leaders to argue it out whether more air strikes and bombing or troops on the ground are the best option against Muslim jihadists in Syria. In the words of the song, ‘Let there be peace on earth and let it begin with me’, this is the only place we can start. If life is about anything, it’s about learning to recognise our own personal shortcomings, prejudices and fears, challenging them, and bringing them to the Light.

Going back to the boy on the street sign. Every child will pick up all sorts of things from us adults, including our prejudice and fear. They will accept, and may later reject, many of our interests, opinions, loves and hates. It is up to us to question the influence we have on them, encouraging them to see all sides of a situation (the mountain) and hopefully give them a ‘leg up’ to a higher starting point on their journey towards the Light.

Copyright 2015 Carole Lacy

Gratitude – How to feel it?

Psychology research is showing that grateful people are more likely to have higher levels of happiness and lower levels of stress and depression. An attitude of gratitude can make the difference between a life of fulfillment, or a life of emptiness.

True gratitude is more than merely saying ‘thank you’. It is not just noticing and appreciating the good qualities of a person or thing which make you pleased. Rather, the essence of the true spirit of gratitude is a positive feeling towards a benefactor and desiring to do something good in return.

gratitudeThankfulness can be seen in the humble innocence of a child. But this attitude may be lost as we grow up and adults can actually find the feeling of gratitude hard to cultivate, because it is the opposite of the normal state of self-orientation. It is very different from a striving to better one’s lot and contrary to a tendency to credit oneself for one’s successes while blaming others for one’s failures.

If you realise it is no good just waiting around to feel thankful, you will ask about what you can actually do to experience gratitude.

Finding gratitude by acknowledging unhelpful thoughts

As a child you may have been told ‘You are special’, ‘You’re number one’ and as an adult you are probably familiar with the ideas about consumer, democratic and human rights. And so having a sense of entitlement can easily be mistaken as natural and even healthy.  It is not uncommon to hear about some youngsters who seem to take everything for granted.

You might think that you are the centre of things but find life doesn’t meet your needs and desires. If so you might well feel aggrieved that you are not getting what you feel you deserve.

How can one feel grateful in this state of mind? Well you can’t according to cognitive therapy- not unless you change your expectations and assumptions.

“There’s nothing good or bad but thinking makes it so” (Hamlet – William Shakespeare)

Is it not true that we disturb ourselves by the beliefs we hold about events?

However, you can challenge a negative habit of thinking once you have spotted it in yourself. One way of challenging aggrieved thinking is to consider the notion that the world owes you nothing: that anything good that happens to you is a gift: something extra to what one might expect which can be appreciated and enjoyed.

“He is a wise man who does not grieve for the things which he has not, but rejoices for those which he has” (Stoic philosopher, Epictetus)

Acting as if one already had gratitude

One exercise is to write down what is good in your life instead of what is bad. This needs to be done on a regular basis perhaps once a week.

It helps to do this by thinking about:

  • What you do have, instead of what you don’t have,
  • Where you are lucky, instead of where you are unlucky,
  • What you love, instead of what you hate,
  • Who likes you, instead of who does not,
  • Where you feel empowered, instead of where you feel helpless,
  • Where you feel inspired, instead of where you feel depressed.

Even if you are sceptical “once you get started, you find more and more things to be grateful for,” says Robert Emmons, a leading gratitude researcher at the University of California at Davis.

He says gratitude doesn’t depend on circumstances. You can be grateful for just about anything that you’ve received in part because of someone or something else. You may feel grateful to your neighbour for a favour, to luck for meeting your spouse, to nature for a scenic view or to fate or a higher power for your safety. Thankfulness helps you see that you’re an object of love and care.

Gratitude as a sign of a noble soul

There is a fable by Aesop about a slave who pulls a thorn out of the paw of a lion. Some time later, the slave and the lion are captured, and the slave is thrown to the lion. The hungry lion rushes bounding and roaring toward the slave, but, upon recognizing his friend, he fawns upon him and licks his hands like a friendly dog. ‘Gratitude’, Aesop concludes, ‘is the sign of noble souls’

From a spiritual perspective, gratitude enables one to connect with something that is not only larger than oneself but also fundamentally good and reassuring. It opens our eyes to the miracle that is life, something to marvel at, revel in, and celebrate, rather than ignore or take for granted as it flies us by.

Gratitude thus involves a dimension of awe, wonder or humility. Christian believers say that ultimately all good things come from the Lord God, the source of goodness, and we are helpless without this higher power active in our lives.

Gratitude in the afterlife

Emanuel Swedenborg described his visions of a heavenly afterlife. He wrote that the angels refuse all thanks from others for the good things they do. They direct all such expressions of gratitude to the Lord God. For, they say, without the Lord they could not carry out anything useful.

They are said to give a further reason for not wanting to be thanked. Doing useful things is the delight of their lives, so why should they be thanked for doing what delights them?

Copyright 2015 Stephen Russell-Lacy Author Heart, Head & Hands

Posted on20th August 2015CategoriesHealing attitudes, Latest post, Spiritual healingTags, , , , ,