And man made God in his own image…
Ego. I am using the term a lot; but what do I actually mean by it?
When I use the term ‘ego,’ I am describing the behaviours and patterns of thinking that derive from an egoically-oriented frame of mind. When I use the term ‘non-ego,’ I am referring to the behavioural and thought patterns that derive from a mind with a non-egoic orientation.
The ego is not who we are; the ego is not what we are. It is a minor component of the total package making up the human spirit. Ego functions to distinguish one individual from every other individual. Ego is akin in functionality to the tokens we place on the Monopoly game’s GO square. It provides a point of view through which we observe and interpret the rest of the game board, the movements of the other tokens, and our personal interactions with both. But ego represents as much of the human spirit, as the token does of the person who is buying up properties and rolling the dice. If the gameplay were left entirely to the token, well, what do you suppose would happen?
Ego is a point of reference; it is not the whole of who and what we are. The ego is to the individual, what the root is to the tree. The ego comprises as much of the individual as the root does of the tree, and is as crucial to our viability as the root is to the tree. Without a healthy root, the tree cannot survive. On the other hand, without a healthy above-ground presence, the root cannot survive either. Therefore the root and the tree-body exist in a critical interdependency which determines the long term viability of both.
If the tree root were an entity unto itself, its existence would be entirely underground. It would have no sense of anything else, apart from that which is also underground. The root would be conscious of itself and of the environment it interacts with – what it can “see” and “touch.” For the root, there is nothing more. No sun, no wind, no birds – nothing. Owing to the limitations imposed by its subterranean existence, it cannot be conscious of all that exists above ground.
Now, connect this root with a tree-body, and look at the whole picture: nutrients are exchanged between the root and the tree-body. Each nourishes the other. Each depends upon the other for survival – if one crashes, so does the other. Yet they are completely different from one another: the one knows how to do osmosis, but not photosynthesis; the other knows how to do photosynthesis, but not osmosis. The tree-body and root perform true to their respective purposes: the tree-body does not draw nutrition directly from the soil, and the root does not draw nutrition directly from the sun. If either took on the duties of the other, duties for which it is not equipped to fulfil, the tree would die. The roots do not contain chlorophyll and have no exposure to sunlight. They cannot, therefore, be in chage of photosynthesis; a process which is necessary to the tree’s survival.
The tree analogy departs from its usefulness in explaining human consciousness when we try to characterize the thing that is overseeing the entire process; what is coordinating the interaction among these two very disparate, yet inseparable entities. The tree-body and root do not choose or consciously regulate this interaction; it just happens. The root provides the tree-body with what the tree-body needs, and accepts from the tree-body what the tree-body gives.
Human consciousness is likewise structured; the roots of the tree representing our ego, the rest of the tree portraying the non-egoic portion. But sentient beings rely on an additional interactive system for survival; one which defines them as sentient beings. This system has three parts: the conscious mind, its elective mode of consciousness, and the innate capacity to choose. We choose what to be conscious of, minute by minute, second by second, nanosecond by nanosecond. The mind facilitates this process by actively choosing to extend itself, or to not extend itself, beyond that which the ego can be conscious of.
Simple. But this is both a blessing and a curse.
There is more to life than meets the ego. There is an entire universe beyond what the ego is capable of understanding and utilizing. We pre-empt our own happiness when we accord ego a disproportionate amount of attention and influence. The ego, by nature, is preoccupied with itself; and feeling quite complete being this way. However, the ego cannot appreciate the value of things it is not aware exist – the list is as long as the universe. To do that, we need our non-egoic component; else we will experience not the life that is; but a fiction ego has created for us.
The condition of the human soul is what Joseph Conrad explores in Heart of Darkness. Conrad’s idea was, the further removed we are from external social controls, the closer our behaviour becomes true to what we really are. What we are, Conrad proposes, is so cruel, so savage that, were we able to look upon our own souls, we would exclaim, “The horror! The horror!” …but this is only half the picture. Colonel Kurz does not express the general, immutable condition of humanity; only that of the ego-bound.
The soul is the ‘magneto’ of the human spirit. It provides our life-force. All things with souls are to God/the Creator, as all cells are to the human body. The soul is connected energetically to all other things with souls. Souls are ‘miniatures’ of the Great Soul. Like God’s, our souls contain good and evil potentials – irreconcilable, yet able to coexist at this stage precisely because they are potentials. Like God’s, our souls can generate positive or negative energy, and depending on their tending toward one or the other, they could sustain themselves, and their human spirit, indefinitely. It depends on how we choose. The mind is our finger on the toggle switch.
The soul is encased in a soul-sheath matrix. The soul-sheath acts as a consciousness filter. The soul-sheath may be modulated energetically, preferencing the energies associated with ego over non-ego, and vice versa. To promote either consciousness to the level of the active conscious, relegates the other to sub-conscious by default. An individual whose conscious thinking is dominated by ego will posses a sheath likewise dominated, and preferencing negative energies. The extreme case is that only ego-compatible energies will pass into and out of the soul. The flow of positive, non-egoic energies, into and out of the soul would be blocked because they are incompatible. The non-egoic component of the sheath operates in reverse fashion. It facilitates the passage of positive energies and impedes the flow of negative energies.
Our behaviour reflects the consciousness mode we have chosen to cultivate. The chooser is the I AM. The highest level of consciousness – and, it should be mentioned here, the aim of every spirit’s evolutionary process – is God consciousness; it is the acceptance of good and evil, each one in their proper measure, along with the recognition of goodness as being the only viable, operative strategy, for living Life. The egoic component of the soul-sheath is sufficiently reduced to permit the flow of positive energy from the soul to the mind, unimpeded. The inference here is that the more non-egoically conscious one becomes, the more receptive one is to the energy of the Divine, and the less impedance the ego is able to create. Conversely, the more egoically-conscious one becomes, the less receptive one is to Divine energy, and the greater the impedance created by the soul.
In order to become everything we have the potential to be, we must cultivate non-egoic consciousness. As we recover what we were born with and what is, in fact, our natural state, the Light of the Universe will illuminate our souls and minds. We will each of us discover who and what we, and all other living things, truly are.
The surest indication of being ego-bound is not being aware of the potential in every single one of us. There is an Angel in you – but the root (your ego) will not permit you to ‘see’ what is above ground.
When Jesus said, Do not hide your light under a bushel basket, I believe this is what he had in mind. His “bushel basket” is what I conceptualize as the soul-sheath. A non-egoic bias permits your soul’s light to easily be seen and shared by others.
Ego times two is the arithmetic of conflict. There has never been a confrontation between two people that has not been ego-to-ego. One cannot control the ego of another without some form of coercion; and no ego can respond to being coerced other than to become further entrenched – that is precisely how problems among people begin. One can, however, control one’s own ego. This does not mean to supress your ego; it means, rather, to set it aside; allowing your mind the opportunity to process more information, and to broaden its perspective on any given situation. This allows you to see the entire picture, or at least, a lot more of it than the ego has the patience to acquire. You may then be assured of doing what is best; even what is best for your ego – though it is not equipped to understand why. Ego is too limited to be an individual human’s general manager; only the mind is qualified to do that job. Cultivating a non-egoic perspective is the only way leading to peace; within and among individuals.
The ego’s level of consciousness maps to the bottom floor of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. It is the level at which the satisfaction of urges has it greatest appeal. This is the only point of entry through which the dark energy of the universe, personified in Satan (Judeo-Christian) or Shaitan (Islam), can gain entry into your mind and soul. While your mind is operating in non-egoic mode, you are as susceptible to negative influences as Shaitan is to positive ones. Because the ego is reactionary by nature, you cannot let it be the last voice you listen to (or the only voice you listen to), before you act. It is crucial that you do not allow your ego to monopolize your thinking, because the ego is limited and weak, and cannot see the ‘big picture.’ Ego is reactive, rather than proactive.
As Canadian society recognizes Maslow’s principles, and restructures itself to facilitate the progress of every citizen through Maslow’s hierarchy, more Canadian individuals will attain self-actualization. A society of self-actualized individuals – can you imagine just how much value they will represent to one another and to the world?
Our children, and our children’s children, need never be anxious about the future again.
The ego constantly evaluates. It is forever drawing comparisons between itself and others. The ego is addicted to the ‘good feeling’ in any way it comes. Ego wants to feel good, about itself; at any cost: to the truth, or to others. It is as overly-critical of faults in others, as it is blind to its own faults. The ego must find a way to feel superior to others, else it will feel inferior. This fixation provides the basis for control and self-esteem issues. The ego-bound mind wastes much of its time and resources rationalizing its own judgements; connecting the dots with facts of its own manufacture, as is necessary, so that the fact will fit its theory. Ego is completely invested in seeing what it wants to see, rather than in wanting to see what is. The non-egoic mind also compares; but whereas ego attempts to misrepresent the facts attending upon situations and people where it suspects itself inferior, non-ego strives to better itself by deconstructing situations and emulating the superior example of other people. In the case where it perceives itself to have an advantage, non-ego strives to help others to become better.
The ego bases its ethical standard entirely on desire – what it wants – as opposed to basing what it wants upon an ethical standard. This implies the ethical standards of the ego are forever changing, and adapting to circumstances. The ego is able to accept no other form of control other than that of its own making – even the ostensible acceptance of, or acquiescence to, the control of others is based entirely upon the ego’s perception of value to itself in doing so.
The innate sense of survival is the key to compelling the ego into doing right by anyone, or anything else, other than the ego. Ego is even incapable of identifying and pursuing what is best for itself, only it cannot know that. Still, what the ego desires, above all else, is to survive. Smokers, for example, are 50% certain to die from smoking. Ego will permit the individual to deduce that they are among the 50% who will not. The ‘non-ego’ will complete the picture by observing it is equally likely that the individual is one of the 50% who will, and that these are terrible odds.
Just because a person acts as if they know what they are doing, it does not necessarily follow that they do. Canada’s erstwhile prime minister, Stephen Harper, was able to stand before us and speak very confidently on how his government’s policies will benefit all Canadians – even while he is enacting social and economic policies most people would have hoped had gone the way of the Dodo; policies which are leading this country toward social, economic, and environmental ruin. The confidence that is supported by ego is totally, and without exception, sustained by ignorance and denial.
Despite what they say, or make themselves believe, Harper et al. do not represent all Canadians -so long as there is a single child, or a single mother, or a single elderly person, in this bountiful country, who is living rueful of today and fearful of tomorrow. No one should be afraid of not having a roof over their head, or food to eat, or access to developmental opportunities. NO child should be allowed to grow up in a milieu other than the most nurturing, safe, and optimistic. As long as there are so many with so little, how can anyone rationalize living the sort of material existence the so-called 1% of society’s members are living?
If you are feeling happy and you do not know why; simply enjoy. On the flip side, if you are feeling any negative emotions; anger, sadness, fear, and the like, then it is important to stop and take an inventory of your thoughts. Consider what you have been thinking about for the last while. Is there one thing, or are there several things? Does it concern something which has happened, or something which could happen? Very probably, you have been thinking these things while your hands are busy doing something unrelated –the dishes or mowing the lawn, perhaps. Something is responsible for the negative emotion, and taking a thoughts inventory will help you track it down faster than your mom did your dirty socks.
You will see patterns and trends to your mode of thinking. Most times, you find that you have been reprising some issue from the past, or entertaining some anxiety about the future which has not been resolved to the satisfaction of the ego. Either way, you must discipline yourself to not allow the issue to occupy your mind and play over and over again. You feel in accordance with your thoughts. You will exhaust yourself, and you will not get anywhere.
You must short-circuit the mental processing that is creating the negative emotion and energy within you. The culprit is always ego. Even if you find these negative thoughts are in response to being unfairly treated, no matter. In every case, what is being done to you by others is never more defining of you, than how you choose to be. No one else can define you. You choose your actions, and your actions define you.
How others value you, reflects their value. How others behave toward you is how they are choosing to be. How they are choosing to be can never be a reflection of your value.
A wonderful side effect, if not the goal, of meditation, is the peace of mental discipline. Its myriad spiritual benefits notwithstanding, meditation directly targets the mind. It disciplines the mind to ‘listen.’ The reason meditation promotes a sense of fulfillment and peace is because the universe itself is “communicating” its peace and knowledge to us, all of the time. We do not hear the message of the universe because we are simply not listening for it. Most of us do not even know the universe is speaking – to not just a few of us, but to all of us. It seems as though only a few -Mohammed (BPUH), Jesus, Moses, Mother Theresa, for example – have heard the Word of God. It is not so much that these great souls were chosen by God; but rather, that these human souls chose to listen. The rest of us have not heard the message because we are not listening – in fact, for the most part, we are not able to listen. We are not able to listen to the universe because our ego is always talking and monopolizing our attention, like a spoiled child. The ego will continue talking so long as we are lending a mental ‘ear’ to it.
We all know it is nigh impossible to hear, much less understand, what another person is saying to us while we ourselves are speaking. No one is able to talk and listen at the same time. The ego is always talking. Ego is pleased to be the sole occupant of your mind, the focus of your mind’s attention. Ego cannot be directly reasoned with, so meditation might work by “misdirection.” It is the mind that meditation targets and trains, to direct its attention away from the chatterbox ego, toward the voice of consciousness which, à la ego, is always speaking. However, unlike the ego, the voice of the non-ego is soft-spoken and nurturing. The speaker is God/the Universe. It is soft-spoken because, unlike the ego, it has no urge to self-satisfy, or to control – only to serve. Its primary function is to serve and to extend that which was created out of Love.
Consider this a moment: Peace of mind is no more the absence of uncertainty, than courage is the absence of fear. Peace of mind does not come from having a certain future, or a certain quality of future. Peace of mind comes from not being distracted from the moment with worry about the future.
Anxiety about the future is a trademark of egoic consciousness. In the mind’s basement, where the past is stored, or in the mind’s attic, where we pile up our speculations about the future, the ego is rearranging things – more often than my mother did the living room furniture –in accordance with what it wants, what it fears, what it rues. Ego accomplishes all of this without ever having ventured from the mind’s main floor; to wit: the present. Ego has a fatal tendency to ignore the mundane present, because the past and future are much more exciting. They are easily manipulated into being the ‘present’ the ego desires and falsely creates for itself. It manufactures situations to which it can emotionally (and, more often than not, negatively) respond. The imagined future and the remembered past, are the ego’s preferred theatres of operation. Here, the ego is able to exercise complete control with respect to the contents in either. Power and control, above all else, is what the ego craves.
The past may only come alive again if we reprise it in our thoughts. It is our ‘thinking’ about the past that gives it new energy by bringing it into the now. We feel the emotions associated with the events we recall into our ‘active’ conscious, every time we think of them. The ego is especially given to reprising past injuries to its own person and rationalizing (to itself) the wrongs it does to others. If we – the I AMs – were to allow it, the ego is happy to go on doing this indefinitely, unto the end of our natural life span. Guided solely by ego, we expose ourselves to the risk of dying without ever having lived. Having to live with so much ego-engendered emotional turmoil, how is it possible for anyone to feel peace?
Just how does becoming engaged with the present help anyone to be at peace? Well , if the mind is not busy listening to the ego’s incessant chatter, what would the mind be doing? If we were to eliminate the past, save for the lessons to be learned from it; and plan for tomorrow but leave tomorrow to take care of itself, save for our plans – what is left for our minds to be occupied with? Only with what is happening, now – right now. The regrets of the past and the anxieties about the future are banished from the mind – such relief! The ‘gut-tightening’ urgency with which the ego informs everything is absent. You now have the luxury of time – and you intuitively sense this (not to mention feel it in your gut) – because the ego is silent on the past and future; because you are not listening to it.
What is true, what is real…all that is, is found in the present moment. Pay close attention to the present moment, and you will not miss a thing. Someone is talking to you? Now you are able to listen completely. For all the time you are listening, you are not in an ego-conscious state, and you offend no one by being a good listener. You are talking? Talk as concisely as possible, enough to clearly communicate your meaning – you will offend no one by talking just long enough to make your point, and by allowing them ample time to make theirs.
Whatever the outcome of a situation, it immediately loses its emotional effect very soon after it has past – or at least it should. A bad situation only last as long as it is active. The emotional effects, however, can continue to live. Given that emotions do not long survive the thoughts that sponsor them, the bad emotion will soon follow the bad situation, if the mind remains engaged with the present.
If you are not ‘present’ in the past or the future, you will be robbing the ego of opportunity in its primary area of expertise. You will be in the present, where your entire being, along with everything else in existence, resides. You would not have chosen to leave your skates in the bedroom closet for when you are at the rink; how is it that you would choose to leave your mind in the past or future for when you are in the present?
The present is peace of mind. The present is good situations, bad situations, and neutral situations, at any time and in any order. Bad situations follow good ones as easily as good situations follow bad ones. Good situations are restorative and peaceful. They are never unsettling in a negative way. By being present, the bad situations you encounter and the negative emotions they engender will be short-lived. They will be replaced by something good, or at least, neutral; in short order, as is the customary pattern.
Sadness is a response to something that has already happened. Anxiety is a response to something which could happen, but has not happened yet. The past and future are the regions in which the ego does its best work in its efforts to maintain control over you. If you keep yourself present, you will experience the peace of self-control. You will feel the joy peace of mind brings to your general state of being.
Peace of Mind is the absence of inner conflict. The inner conflict we experience, emotionally, arises from the tension in existence between our egoic and non-egoic components. An attribute of ego is resistance; acceptance is an attribute associated with non-ego. One must reconcile the two aspects of our consciousness in order to relieve the tension. Reconciliation cannot come of resistance – that much should be plain. Reconciliation can only come of acceptance. Since acceptance is an attribute of non-ego, reconciliation – peace of mind – may only be accomplished when our minds are in a non-egoic state and everything in the now is being ‘framed’ that way. Consciousness of the magic and beauty in life is felt by the egoic as well as the non-egoic selves, just as the roots of the tree share the sun’s benefits with the leaves directly experiencing it. Each time we extend ourselves, if even for a moment, we will get a taste of this, and the ego will look to the non-ego for the peace and joy all souls ‘live’ to discover.
Our so-called ‘egoic-selves’ and ‘non-egoic-selves,’ terms I often use in this manuscript, are simply aspects, or phases of the I AM. These are conceptual, not real. There are not two ‘selves’ in every human being; rather every human being has two sides, like the proverbial coin; but the coin is still one. It is the mind which has its finger on the trigger…
Next post: Chapter II – Talking About Ourselves – continued…