"While wisdom and realization may be fundamental to your being." Starr notes, "they are obfuscated by a lifelong process starting at birth that leads us away from the realized state and inner guru. From the outset, personal experiences and conditioning manifest a personal ego that we firmly believe is our sole identity. That conclusion commits us to a lifelong process of seeking self-realization by strengthening, expanding and defending the little me/self/ego in a desperate struggle for survival. And most of our psychological theories and traditional societal teachings keep us on that dead-end path, since they too cannot see any foundation for existence other than the ego level of consciousness."security and luxuries that society holds out on offer. Doubts as to the validity of the spiritual path and the goal of enlightenment are bound to arise.
More subtle, and much more difficult, however, is the problem of an ego that grasps onto the individual's drive for enlightenment as a means to retain its dominance over the individual. "You are seeking enlightenment?," the ego seems to ask. "Well, just watch how spiritual I can be!"
Starr, identifying this process as the "near enemy" (a term popularized by Buddhist teacher, Jack Kornfield), warns that "the ego will not willingly loosen its ferocious grip on existence."
"Since the ego has been your sole co-pilot in life for seeking a secure sense of self," he notes, "you will not abandon it for the smoke and mirrors of another foundation that you sense but are not sure is real."
Utilizing the concept of 'love' as an example - a concept which along with 'compassion' is universal to the world's great wisdom traditions - Starr illustrates the process of how the "near enemy" of the ego subverts even these most lofty of emotions and ideals.
"While love is at the core of all religions and spiritual traditions," Starr notes, "its near enemy version abounds. "I love you" are three little words that are easy to say but much more difficult to genuinely mean or live. Hidden behind affirmations of love can be self-serving egoism, attachment and dependency."
"Love that is truly spiritual is unconditional and selfless," he observes. "But in practice, how often does it mean "I will love you only if you return love"? All too frequently we hear about "love" that quickly morphed into hate and even violence when it was not reciprocated."
"(Y)ou can be your own guru," Starr notes, (b)ut beware of the near enemies. Few can avoid entrapment. If you think you can," he warns, "that may be another near enemy."