On Being – Chapter II – Talking About Ourselves (part VII)

Standard

Getting Ego to Toe the Line

A cab driver once complained to me about drivers illegally using the lane dedicated to taxis, buses, cyclists, and private vehicles bearing three or more passengers. We agreed the police needed to ticket these drivers or they would go on cheating.

If you have to coerce people into doing what they should be doing for the common good of their own accord, you must hit them in the pocket-book – that is the best way. If it costs more to put out an additional bag of garbage, people will be motivated to produce less garbage. If energy costs more, people will be motivated to find ways to use less. Ego seeks to control as fiercely as it resists being controlled. It begrudges being told to create less garbage, say, but it values its money more, and so, it will comply.

This is the root of the problem: We are too little concerned with how our actions affect those with whom we share the world and the generations to whom we will leave it. By all appearances, the threat of penalty is the only available tool for motivating egoically-bound people into doing the right thing. Coercing the ego does not, however, resolve the core problem. In fact, it may exacerbate the problem since it is encourages people to do the right thing, but for the wrong reasons.

 

Utilitarianism

The utilitarian approach could have been partly inspired by Machiavelli’s The Prince – the origin of the famous motto, the end justifies the means.

Should we allow this approach to guide our dear Canada’s development? Utility, unguided by conscience and vision, is as dangerous as intellect, unguided by heart – only the wind knows where our wonderful country, and its spirit of selfless promotion and preservation of peace, at home, and in the world, will end up.

A society which takes up a utilitarian approach, does so to the detriment of the value system upon which it was originally structured. Society can only prosper and endure when it is operating on the basis of a clear set of values that is pragmatically and progressively implemented. A utilitarian value system could, over generations, result in a society we of this generation would abhor. On the other hand, a purely ideological approach always ends up a failure, since it amounts to nothing more than someone’s egoic substitution of their version of reality for that which actually is real. Saying things are ‘so,’ does not make them ‘so,’ but that is the only way governments adopting an ideological approach can govern. Such governments are social and economic parasites; they sap the nation’s strength, and rob the majority of its citizens of their long term prospects. They rely on propaganda to keep their less wealthy citizens ‘happy.’ A society founded on utilitarian values will end up being as stable as a home built on muskeg. That society could easily morph into something monstrous and unintended.[i]

Utilitarianism can be an effective tool when used in a proper context. It would be useful to provide fine-tuning of initiatives and policies so that they are better reconciled with the times. The policies themselves derive from social values which derive from a social vision. The liberal pragmatist is, potentially, as dangerous as the ideologue, if pragmatism is used to guide the formulation of new values, rather than to facilitate the fruition of foundational values.

The value system per se must be developed with a sense of universality and near-immutability, rather than of fashion. For example, American society is founded on the right of the individual to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Canadian society is founded upon freedom, tolerance, and social justice. Can anyone living in either country look around and say these values are universally applied? If they cannot, it is the government and the people who elected them to blame: in the words of Lucas McCain, The Rifleman:

The danger is when people start getting careless about how their country is being run.

Utilitarianism versus ideology – for the moment, lets forget that utilitarianism is also an ideology. Only ego can find appeal in the extreme application of either. The non-egoically conscious will know that societies and individuals cannot do with just one or the other; that a balance must always be struck between the two.

 

The Ego and the Wealthy

Jesus equated a rich man’s chance of entering Heaven with that of a camel’s to squeeze through the eye of a needle. He may have been refering to the interaction between the ego and the soul.  We have already seen how an egoically modalized soul’s sheath acts to interfere with the exchanges of positive, nutritive, life-sustaining energies between the soul and the rest of Creation; while at the same time enhancing the exchanges of negative, consumptive energies that may ultimately destroy the soul. The stronger the ego, the more pronounced are the effects. Rich, successful, celebrated individuals may have a harder time overcoming their egos than poor, unsuccessful, uncelebrated individuals, because success and the accompanying material comforts are highly addictive to ego – so addictive, in fact, that ego can become totally absorbed in them. There are many sources of joy, but material wealth, beyond a certain point, is not one of them.

The ego instinctively classifies everyone in its environment with respect to possessions, attractiveness, wealth, intelligence, etc. and uses them to benchmark its self-image. Where it finds itself wanting, it will restructure differences in order to make the comparison more ego-favourable.  Ego could spend all of its time occupied with these things, and not consider any of it as time wasted. The problem, which the ego cannot recognize, is that upon physical death, these things are completely irrelevant. An individual’s wealth is no longer useful to the individual.

In life, wealth is a great impediment to social and individual fulfilment if the individual regards it as the primary measure of one’s worth. It is what one does with one’s wealth which determines this. If you have a  cheap shovel that you use to dig drainage ditches, and your neighbour has a very expensive shovel that he uses to clobber people over the head with, is the neighbour of greater value because he can afford the more expensive shovel? Obviously, it is what one does with the shovel that marks one’s value, and what greater value can one person manifest than to make their world a better place for those now living (plant, animal, and human), and those yet to come?

The Ego and the After-life

What people choose to do with their wealth is revealing of their spiritual state, not their wealth. This is what is relevant after we die. I define the human spirit as consisting of the soul, the mind, and the soul-body. An individual possessing a healthy trio will not have died the-one-per-cent wealthy, because the individual will have felt compelled to allocate any excess beyond a comfortable living toward creating opportunities for people in their own families, their communities, their world. An individual with a strong ego cannot be in possession of a healthy trio because the stronger the ego, the thicker the soul-sheath’s egoic component, therefore the less positive, restorative nourishment the soul can receive.

Ego is a powerful influence in the 3rd Emanation, with consequences potentially beyond time’s measure. It’s power might end upon physical death, but at that point, the spirit’s quality is set and cannot be changed.

Imagine that when we die, we are presented with three doors: the first, leads to that 2nd Emanation world of pure ego, aka “Hell”; the second, leads to the 2nd Emanation world of pure non-ego, aka “Heaven”; the third leads to some spiritual-consciousness middle ground. This third world is what my own religious tradition might call ‘ purgatory.’  If reincarnation is real, this region of spiritual indecisiveness and ambiguity may be the ‘staging area’ for re-entry into the 3rd Emanation, material world. Perhaps it is the state of our spiritual triad (mind- soul- soul-body) upon physical death, that determines which door our spirit may pass through. I cannot believe entry into Heaven is contingent upon being true to a belief, or upon whether the Creator is in a forgiving ‘mood.’ That door could simply be the one which is most compatible with the individual’s preponderant spiritual energy state: egoic, or non-egoic.

 

[i] The Harper Conservatives were using their democratic majority to undermine Canada’s democracy(the democracy that allowed them to come to power; but now that they are in, they want to make sure they stay in), to denature her socially and environmentally, so that they might plunder and exploit her for everything of value. They deliberately and completely ignore the severe short and long term consequences to our nation and to future Canadians (not to mention the sacrifices of past generations of Canadians); even spending upwards of a billion dollars of public money, at a time when poverty is more prevalent than ever before and the economy is imploding, on television commercials to convince Canadians that everything is ‘so,’ when in fact everything is not ‘so.’ They pay lip service to democracy while they try to change our laws and constitutional framework to destroy democracy, and direct an increasing proportion of our country’s wealth to the haves and away from the have-nots.