This is the God Complex: I make myself God to others to save myself from my suffering. Salvation from suffering through egotism is the problem of God. Humanity creates its Gods in the image of its ego. Ego worship is the source of the tribalistic us-versus-them thinking that threatens our species’ extinction and prevents humanity from grasping its true divinity, which is service through experiential apprehension of our connection. A God Complex is a pathology found on two ends of a spectrum of distorted views of self in relation to others. The temptation of God begins with outsourcing your power by becoming small and surrendering yourself for salvation or becoming big and offering yourself as the solution.
If I require you to magnify the ego of my God through flattering worship and exchange your power and autonomy for relief from your suffering, I am really asking you to band-aid your inadequacy by band-aiding my God’s inadequacy. Our suffering will decrease on the surface and multiply in the depths. If I say I am God at the expense of your divinity, my divinity is grandiosity. When I try to make myself big, then I am smallest. Then I am least God. But if I say I am not God because I do not recognize my own creative beauty, I rob you and myself of the mysteries of life. Life depends on the recognition of God in the self in terms of the empowerment of humility, not worship or religious conquest.
Worship is the defining symptom of a God Complex. We must stop worshipping and desiring to be worshipped to cure the God Ego Complex. God must come down from his throne and become human for salvation to occur. Salvation is divestment from the need to save and be saved, ego dependency, through experiencing the interconnectedness of all life. Humility is humanity. The low road is the way to God. I can only see God when I resist the temptation to entertain worship. Otherwise, my image of divinity is nothing more than the self-aggrandizement of my religion or my neediness. Your image gets in the way of who you really are, who God is.
We bury our pain and try to project it out of existence onto a shadow figure of divinity we call our egos, image, or God. This God is a mask, a ruse, an illusion we’ve created, I’ve created, to protect myself from pain. This is a collective vision and its power is that we buy into it. It feeds on our need for love and relief from suffering. We are experts at avoiding and burying our pain, deeper and deeper under layers of altruism and religiosity. Yet we never forget our pain, we can’t forget or get over it except by embracing it.
Jesus failed the God test. Jesus gave in to the temptation to save himself from inadequacy by becoming humanity’s savior. Jesus gave in to the temptation to conflate his ego with God whenever he proclaimed himself as God and accepted the worship of other humans, instead of preaching himself as a God among Gods and a savior needing salvation. This is the God Complex. I become God to save myself. Let go of the Messiah Complex. Be your own savior.
Where did Jesus’s sense of inadequacy come from, that his pain was so great he felt the need to be saved by becoming a savior? Perhaps Jesus’s core wound was the rejection and shame of being a bastard. Jesus was not the legitimate child of a marriage; Joseph graciously adopted Jesus as his son when he married Mary (Luke 1:26-38, Matthew 1:18-25). The gospels cover up Jesus’s bastard status (along with his humanity) by proclaiming him to be born of a miraculous virgin birth. Regardless of one’s belief about Jesus’s birth origins, the people of Jesus’s day believed him to be a bastard and ridiculed him for it (John 8:41). Jesus grew up suffering the rejection of his people, possibly his own family. In his culture, a bastard was seen as something less than human, perhaps accepted conditionally out of pity instead of inherent self-worth. A wound this deep could easily result in the need to compensate and gain recognition by rebelling against the establishment, seeking followers, proclaiming oneself to be perfect, and virtually asking for martyrdom. These were not Jesus’s only motivations, nor do they delegitimatize his work. But these actions may indicate a sense of unworthiness so deep that crucifixion was the only punishment and vindication great enough to compensate.
Jesus lost God when he proclaimed himself to be God at the expense of others’ divinity. Yet Jesus also showed us the way to liberation from our God Complex and the path to divine realization in his dying words. Jesus was most human and most God in his cry of divine abandonment on the cross, “My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?” (Mark 15:34, NIV). At that moment, Jesus experienced the full weight of his narcissistic wounding. Just as he was abandoned by his birthfather and considered a bastard, Jesus was abandoned by his heavenly father at death in his God Complex enterprise. God failed to validate Jesus’ narcissistic project of messianic grandeur.
In his acknowledgment of the crushing pain of humiliation before himself and humanity, his failure to be vindicated as Messiah on full display, Jesus displayed his raw, authentic humanity. Jesus crucified his God Complex and so attained divinity. He freed his divinity from the imprisonment of the Ego God, making it available to others, and achieved resurrection through his spirit which lives on through his example. The way of the cross is a constant shattering of Ego God idols, a dying to false self through the embrace of your suffering to liberate your Godself. Jesus’ entire ministry can be viewed as a battle between the satanic temptation to proclaim himself as God for the reward of worship and the divine mission to proclaim himself as God as an example of the divinity of all people (“you are gods,” Jesus, John 10:34) for the reward of resurrection–which only comes through symbolic crucifixion.
In achieving God-forsakenness we die to our God Complexes. We embrace the pain of the moment to forgo the greater hell. We embrace the agony of the cross instead of the false peace of certainty, we embrace death and stay with the pain in order to attain life, eternal salvation, redemption, heaven, bliss. The God Complex is the temptation to confuse ego with divinity, offering oneself as a savior and object of worship as a means of coping with suffering. Our self-image is so close to God, the real thing. It’s easy to confuse the two, though they are opposites. In the subtle identifications of our egos with divinity, “I am God,” we implore people to worship us, outsourcing their divinity and focusing their attention on an omni-impotent ego God idol. Yet when we say “I am God” in alignment with true nature rather than self-interest, we proclaim the universal truth that all humans are as incarnate gods.
In my experience, I slip from true nature into ego-fixated living as a consequence of living in a society that is premised on the delusion that self-interest, isolation, and meaninglessness are more fundamental to nature than harmony, connection, and purpose. I quickly and easily appropriate my spiritual experiences and insights as a means of propping up my ego and attracting the attention of others. One moment I am proclaiming a timeless truth for the liberation and benefit of all, and the next I find myself bolstering my ego as superior and special because of my spiritual knowledge. How cunning is the God Complex!
I am God, I am Jesus, is the ego reinventing itself through a divine mask and craving worship. The ego hides and masks the true self, which really is God. Jesus is the problem and the solution. Cults start when I gather disciples around my egoic godself because I need to be heard. This is the egoic Jesus. The divine Jesus is the example of divine empowerment through humility, not the idolization of a person. Jesus knew his divine identity, his true nature, and people loved him for it. But they made him God instead of following his message of the liberation of the self-as-divine because they could not bear the weight of divine glory. The privilege and the burden of God is to be God with humility for the glory of others, not for worship.
“I am Jesus.” How many lunatics have had this thought? But that is who you really are. The incarnation of God in a human is a dream, humanity’s longing to recognize itself as God. Jesus needed the cross to recognize himself as human and lose his egoic sense of divine superior separateness. Crucify yourself, Jesus. Put the God Complex to death. Only by killing God in our egos can we ever hope to find God. I am God – sign your name! You are God, tell the whole world, become a madwoman, a madman, risk your sanity to achieve salvation. Tell everyone “you are God.” We all need to hear the gospel to awaken, to let go of the illusion of God to find the God we really are.
Church is where two or more are gathered in the name of Jesus (Matthew 18:20) symbolically: It is when people stand together and recognize their divinity in reverent awe of the divinity of the other. They radiate and reflect the glory, the Shekinah, God’s manifest presence. All creation worships, not because it is commanded, but because its nature is to recognize itself.
God is the magic of nature, which creates all life. We are nature as divine, we are creators and life-givers. But pseudo-divinity is an anti-God force that uses salvation to control and suppress the creative life of others. This God Complex is the driving complex behind conquests, violence, and oppression. We destroy divinity in our desperation to be acknowledged, sacrificing the whole for the part, the greater humanity for the individual. We have unleashed the apocalypse of egocentric environmental self-destruction, creators collapsing creation. The End Times is the destruction of Nature that has resulted from the implosion of human-divine nature because humans have exchanged their divinity for an image.
Your most basic human right is religious freedom. The right to be human, the right to be divine. Religious freedom, God freedom, is the freedom to be who we really are instead of buying into someone else’s delusion, someone’s God Complex claiming to save us. Do not let God take that away from you. God is essence, not ego. The Great Commission is to liberate yourself. Religious freedom is letting go of control and the fear that inspires it. Freedom is embracing unknowability, of living into the never-ending journey of letting God go to become and recognize God. This is divinization, theosis, the way of eternal life, the fruit of the tree, the knowledge of good and evil.
Jesus is found in the embrace of the suffering self. Let us learn to love ourselves by loving our enemies, for the real enemy is the one inside who hides in the projection of the other. Once you can love your enemies, then you will no longer need a God Complex. You have mastered the divine.
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Do you feel psychologically traumatized by religion, or isolated and disempowered by trauma and limiting beliefs in your life? I’m Andrew Jasko, Master of Divinity (M.Div.), M.A., Counseling Psychology in progress, and I work to help you transform your trauma into the place of your power and connect to a healthy, authentic spirituality that works for you (whether that’s as a spiritual, atheist, religious, transitioning, or agnostic identifying person). I was born into a minister’s family and became a preacher and missionary to India, after studying theology at Wheaton College and Princeton Seminary. As a Christian, my relationship with God was my passion, but unhealthy religious teachings caused me an anxiety disorder, sexual repression, and spiritual disillusionment. I felt alone, traumatized, and abandoned by the divine. After an agonizing crisis of faith, I rejected religion and spirituality. Then, I had an unexpected spiritual awakening through mystical and spiritual practices like meditation, psychedelics, and connecting my heart’s desires and intuition through my Divine Mindfulness practice. My passion is to help you in your spiritual or life transition to heal and connect with your authentic spiritual wholeness.