Author Tom Galten, in his work as a psychotherapist and substance abuse counselor, finds that many of his clients suffer from “an acute thirst for spiritual experience.” Galten says “this thirst is what some have called a search for God and others have called the Self’s search for itself.” In the Advaita (non-dual) tradition of such spiritual teachers as Eckhart Tolle, Rupert Spira, Alan Watts, Mooji and many others, Enlightenment is Not an Ego Project is a powerful little book aimed at supporting restive seekers and inspiring us to persevere on the journey. The book has a scholarly quality to it that reinforces and supports its basic premises and purpose.
Galten’s own words say it best:
“I am convinced that only a personal realization, and not ideas, will fully satisfy the spiritual seeker. In short, you want to actually feel connection, peace and deep fulfillment. You are searching … for an experience. So if we can agree from the start that only something “beyond words and ideas” (or, if you prefer, “prior” to words and ideas) can ever fully relieve your discontent and settle your restlessness, we can move on to a discussion which will, in its synergistic relationship with the spiritual energy that you as the reader bring to it, provide illumination and boost your ongoing transformation. … So look within, not to me or to anyone else. You are in the midst of a genuine transformational process which, now that it has begun, will not stop.”
Transformation of consciousness began in Thomas Galten by way of recovery from alcoholism, a compulsive condition which Tom has since come to regard as a bellwether, as are all compulsions,
for deep-level inner shifts.
Since the arrival of this new dimension of awareness, Tom has studied a wide variety of religions, psychologies and philosophies, research which has strongly influenced his practice of psychotherapy
and teaching, professions for which he is formally trained and which he continues to practice.
But it is Tom’s own inwardly experienced and ongoing renewal, begun in acute suffering and enriched by his exploration of the mysticism which appears in many settings, guises and disciplines, that continues to fascinate and engage him. It also inspires him to pass on to others, through both the written and spoken word, the esoteric knowledge that has been given to him.
Thomas Galten lives in Milwaukee with his wife and daughter.
What is it I’m looking for? How do I get it? How will I know when I’ve found it? How can a book – this one or any book – promote my finding that for which I search? Good questions. …
This book has been written in response to these, and other, questions which have occurred to me on my own journey and that have been asked by many others with whom I have worked as a psychotherapist and clinical substance abuse counselor. For I can tell you this with certainty: You are not searching for ideas, novel ways of describing reality, a new philosophy or religion, information that can be considered or analyzed by the thinking mind or someone or something that can be objectified and known apart from yourself.
Instead, you are thirsting for an experience. Similarly, the transformation of consciousness that is, I assure you, already underway in, by and through you entails not merely the adoption of a new worldview, an improved approach to human relationships, more positive thinking patterns, better social role functioning or less emotional distress, though all of these phenomena are certainly implied by the transformation. Moreover, though I am neither putting down nor criticizing ideas (indeed, this fairly small book contains many of them), I am convinced that only a personal realization, and not ideas, will fully satisfy the spiritual seeker.
In short, you want to actually feel connection, peace and deep fulfillment. You are searching, once again, for an experience. So if we can agree from the start that only something “beyond words and ideas” (or, if you prefer, “prior” to words and ideas) can ever fully relieve your discontent and settle your restlessness, we can move on to a discussion which will, in its synergistic relationship with the spiritual energy that you as the reader bring to it, provide illumination and boost your ongoing transformation. …
So look within, not to me or to anyone else. You are in the midst of a genuine transformational process which, now that it has begun, will not stop. In my work as a psychotherapist who takes spirituality seriously, I regard myself as a sort of “spiritual midwife,” present in order to be of whatever help I can be in the birth of the Self by and through humans. But, as is true of the literal midwife and childbirth, I neither cause spiritual pregnancies to occur nor do I initiate the labor process as the Self begins to emerge; those things happen by themselves (or, if you prefer, by the grace and will of God, which means the same thing). But I am there to assist and to hopefully facilitate the event.
So let’s move forward with this exploration and first take a closer look at what apparently “ails you,” so to speak – that is, an acute thirst for spiritual experience – which usually issues in varying measures of restiveness and discontent. This distress is what some have called a search for God and others have called the Self’s search for itself.
I often ask persons who come in for counseling, “What do you want?” Generally speaking, people understand the question and respond quite earnestly. “I want to be happy.” “I want my life to be better.” “I want peace.” “I want my marriage/family life to improve.” All very valid – and entirely legitimate – answers to my question. And so, similarly, I ask this question now of you who have picked up this book: “What do you want? In particular, what are you looking for in this book?” Many readers would reply in much the same way as counseling clients do: “I want to deepen my spirituality.” Or: “I want the peace and serenity that I believe this book is offering the reader.” Again, these are valid and reflective responses.
Yet, at the risk of offending the reader, I will state here that these answers also expose a common, almost universal, lack of awareness – the awareness that you already have that for which you seek. Even more specifically, that you already are that for which you seek. “What do you mean?” you might ask. Simply this: The personal experience of peace which you may believe you lack (or wish more of) is, paradoxically, found only when the searching phenomenon (or “the seeker”) consciously, and in full subjectivity, “comes together,” so to speak, with itself.
As Dennis Waite has written: We spend all our efforts looking outside of ourselves for… lasting happiness. Yet it is the act of looking that takes us away from happiness. This coming together with oneself, or “Self-realization,” as it is sometimes called, can also be described as a re-direction of energy – energy which had been directed “out and away” from the seeker in a compulsive search for completion, is now “contained,” we might say, and so generates consciousness of itself. “Consciousness becoming conscious of itself,” as the 20th century Indian sage, Nisargadatta Maharaj, often put it, is the omega point, the true end of the search. The searcher has realized that she has unknowingly been seeking for herself all along!
“So why read this book?,” you ask. Another good question. If you are asking this question right about now then I would say to you: “You’re getting the point.”
No book, after all, is actually necessary for awareness to become aware of itself. No book is the source of the experience of connection and deep integrity you seek, just as no counseling regimen or counselor is the source of peace, happiness, contentment or joy. On the other hand, perhaps this book can act as a sort of catalyst and promote self-realization in ways similar to that of a good counseling relationship.
Might this book be a teacher for you in helping to point you toward – or identify you with – the realm you seek? My hope is that it does just that. But if this book is to function for you in this manner, you must view it as a relative pointer to the absolute. The way I describe things here can be described in other, perhaps better, ways. Moreover, you may not fully grasp, or agree with, everything I say. No matter. This book does not stand on its own. As noted in the “Introduction,” the present work is neither a philosophical argument nor is it primarily an attempt to convey information or theory. It is mainly a signpost pointing at the dimension of yourself for which you are seeking. As a signpost, it undoubtedly has its flaws and imperfections and is not itself that dimension of consciousness. Read it, if you will, in a spirit of openness and willingness and I am confident that it will benefit you, just as counseling inevitably benefits those clients who are willing and open to experience a true and authentic relationship with a counselor capable of genuineness, presence, empathy and unconditional positive regard.