This is a section from a chapter in my re-write of God, Self and Ego that I thought might be of interest to the forum.
"Ego" here means active consciousness, wherein awareness is focused and the mind/will interacting. There is a "sense of self" that comes from such activity, and generally an "idea" of oneself (self-image) in play as well. Nevertheless, I do not consider this a "false self" so much as a "small self." That's all worked out in an earlier chapter, however.
And that is why, forum friends, we ought never, ever conclude that the Ego is an obstacle to encountering God.
Does nrc have any value at all, then?
Yes, Derek, of course! Non-reflecting consciousness is the source of the Ego, and is the environment in which contemplation is experienced. To my understanding, contemplation happens when the Ego is drawn to rest and even absorption in the ground of awareness, intelligence and freedom from which it emerged to actively engage some issue.
NRC is also a good thing in and of itself, apart from contemplation. One can learn to set intentionality and reflectivity aside, often for extended periods, to simply be present, just-be, and experience the wonder of being alive. You might call this a natural or aesthetic contemplative experience (as opposed to mystical or supernatural), but it's nonetheless a good thing.
It all sounds so much more gentle and gracious than striving to "realise" God. A compassionate relationship offered from above, rather than an upward thrust to become.
Exactly! "The Good Shepherd" or "Hound of Heaven" is looking out for us. Sometimes it's more about letting ourselves be found than "finding."
But God does, in fact, love us in our current Egoic manifestations.
Bliss, Ego just means our everyday active, intentional consciousness. As so many others, you seem to regard it as a false self. It's not. But God loves us and connects with us even in our false selves, inviting us to a relationship that will heal us.
Later in the book, I write of the Ego-God relationship and the contemplative journey:
Self-God ground is another way of speaking of our non-reflecting consciousness arising from God, moment-by-moment. Aka "Ground of Being," or "Apex of the Soul"
Phil - are you saying that no Christian ever experiences the dropping of subject/object perspective (or the sense of an observational "I") except during moments of non-functional mystical ecstasy? (which I'm imagining as one of those classic nun sprawled on the floor with beams of light shining down on her images (<--humor).
Or, just to clarify, are you saying that no Christian would ever articulate it that way, because that way of articulating such a perspective doesn't fit into a Christian framework?
Also, Phil, what would be your term for "ego" as other spiritual writers make use of the word? Are you happy with lower case 'e' - "ego", or something along the lines of "false self"?
Let's try this, Ona:
I don't see us ever transcending "I," not even in heaven. But "I" experienced non-reflectively as in "just-being" is not thinking, "I am this and you are that." It's just being-with and going with the flow.
- - -
Stephen, I regard the false self as a conditioning that inflicts the Ego moreso than a little ego. Ego is Self in its active, intentional engagement with the world of duality, which is how we usually experience ourselves. The awareness immanent in Ego is the same awareness as Self.
Hm. By non-reflecting I assume you mean not thinking "this is me and that is not me" or "oh look, here I am doing this" - in otherwords there is no sense of "observational I".
But you posit that the "observational I endures" (ie the self-reflecting sense of separate self and sense of subject/object). And that the "non-reflective experience" is the same as "just being without thinking (in terms of subject/object)".
So to me it still feels a bit confusing.
There is always an "I" that is the subjective see-er, Ona. When we are not reflecting or intentional, it's still there, not as a thought, but as a presence -- who we really are. And, of course, duality is there as well; our reflecting and intending do not create duality. All these different created things really do exist. In non-reflecting see-ing, we can still make distinctions between things (or else we would walk into walls ), but we do not feel separated from them; we sense/feel/know our connection with them directly and not through concepts.
Obviously that's not the case with the Ego, especially in its woundedness where its identity is rooted in self-image, which it projects and protects in many unhealthy ways. But to say this is not to imply that we need to get rid of our Ego. We need to heal it (or, rather, it needs to learn how to) of its woundedness, then it can play its rightful role in developing our potential, solving problems, etc. We need a healthy Ego to be a healthy human being.
Oh well. I get the general gist of what you are saying, but the specific way of framing it/vocabulary seems not to resonate well with me. But that's okay!
Phil, I'm becoming more inclined to use Ego as you do. It seems more correct metaphysically. It's perhaps a little lazy to use the word as a catch all for negative conditioning and slips into the nondual zone where it's seen as illusory. And in heaven, where we may even become lost in God, it's still we or I who are lost...
A healthy 'I', say I!
Right, Stephen. If we regard Ego as the active, intentional (and reflective) engagement of Self in the world, then all that tells us is what it is, and nothing more. It can be healthy and authentic, or corrupted by false self programming and addictive attachments, etc. How silly it would be to refer to only the sick body as "the body" and to lament having one. Same with Ego: we have one, and are responsible for its formation.
The ideal development is for the Ego to be centered in the Spirit (the Spirit-centered Ego) rather than looking to self-image as the basis of its identity. Faith draws us to this Spirit-centeredness and the journey to integrating Ego in the Self-God ground of being.
This was definitely my experience.
Bliss, I do speak of surrender of the Ego to God, in a relationship of love.
For me, soul and Ego are not separate. The deeper consciousness of the soul is what I call non-reflecting awareness (the part of you that "saw" the Ego); the Ego is the intentional expression of the same. The Ego is thus the soul's active engagement in the world and the means by which our potential (including our relationship with God) is developed. Spirituality is about forming the Ego to come to realize its roots in Self (non-reflecting consciousness) and the God who is the Source of Self and all things. We come to a point where Ego emerges and recedes as needed, dpending on what needs to be done.
From the conclusion of this chapter on the Ego-God relationship, I share 10 positive benefits of the Ego-God relationship:
I have read the different points that are presented here, and came across several that made me scratch my head, but much more importantly is that I encountered a very important point of agreement: the Ego is not to be destroyed but to be transformed.
“Why destroy what has been made by God?” is a question they asked me, and it is a question that I further to you. One of the quests of the spiritual path indeed is not to destroy the Ego, but rather transform it into “something” that makes life on earth worthwhile. I would have made a differentiation between the ego and the Ego, as a matter of conceptual clearness, where the ego is drawn to material life and the Ego is the transformed ego aspiring for spiritual grace.
I believe this is a very important difference. When the gospels talk about “dead people”, they are pointing at those unfortunate world citizens who allow themselves to be governed by their ego (or from an Eastern point of view, the unorganized plurality of their egos). Life begins not when the ego is killed, but when it is awoken to its spiritual potential. It is somewhat of an ironic relationship: the source of all your misery is also the source of all your happiness. You must “convince” the ego to become an Ego, and for those who are very low on the spiritual ladder, those who are touched for the very first time by His grace, those who have seen for the very first time there really is another way, for those this is quite a shock and a situation that seems difficult to reconcile (and one of the reasons why some talk about kundalini syndrome and others about kundalini blessings ).
Also, “kundalini” does not get rid of the Ego, it rather transforms it. At its height, (they say that) the Ego dissolves. But kundalini is just about the ascent, it also deals with the descent of the unified energy, an aspect that is often forgotten or not dealt with in detail. Briefly put, the ascent is about dealing with the ego and its transformation into an Ego and ultimately union with the One, while the descent addresses the installation of the Ego as king and ruler.
And this indeed is an important moment, because the Ego can serve the Soul in such a way that the Soul can properly talk to Him, without all the distracting background noise generated by the ego. I agree with BlissInTheHeart, also because of my experience, that Soul and Ego are distinct. To walk and talk on earth, the Ego is necessary; it is part of the material life conditions that He created. The Ego acts as an intermediary for the Soul through the material world. The Soul does not ultimately need the Ego to communicate with Him, I believe. Most of us communicate with Him through the ego, later through the Ego, later through the Soul. This represents an evolution, several stages on the ladder of spiritual growth. As such, Phil’s post 2489 makes a lot of sense to me, except for the fact that he does not see the Soul and the Ego as separate.
By golly, aion, we are coming close to agreement.
Now here's the kicker: it is the Ego that has responsibility for its transformation, and that is a topic I deal with in several chapters of the book. In doing so, it comes to know its root in the deeper ground of the Soul -- what I call the Self-God ground (aka ground of being, apex of the soul, etc.). It knows itself to be not something other than Self, but, we might say, Self-in-action via the mind and will. So Ego and Self are not, in fact, separate things; the awareness immanent in Ego is Self, and the intelligence and will operating in Ego are also rooted in that deeper ground.
But here's where I might differ from some of you. Through the process of this re-write, I have become convinced that it is the task of the Ego to not only develop our innate human potential, but to develop the deeper Self-God ground as well. After all, if the awareness, intelligence and will invested in Ego are ultimately derived from that deeper ground of the soul, then their exercise via Ego cannot help but "till the soils" of the Self-God ground. This makes for an incarnational spirituality that is different in many ways from meditative approaches that seek to disable or deconstruct the Ego in order to experience more directly the Self-God ground.
Some of you might be interested in this section from the book on "zones of consciousness." It's short, and has a figure to illustrate, along with a short descriptor.
- see http://shalomplace.com/res/zones.pdf
Yes, this is good. Very helpful...
I'm thinking then that the distinction between Self and God is between created and uncreated. Others would have it that in essence there is no distinction, merely that of form and formlessness, but the fact that form arises from or within formlessness implies some sort of creative act to me, so the Christian ontology seems more authentic.
Also, is there a part of the Self untouched by sin and the Fall, perhaps that part which rests intimately in God? So then we might see sin affecting Ego rising from Self, and Persona from Ego incrementally...ie the more one is lost in Persona, the greater the potential for sin. But still of course, God loves Ego... Or is the whole created being in need of redemption? Is the state of resting in the Self/God ground a first fruit of redemption? Perhaps you address these questions in the book, Phil.
Exactly! Our deepest experience of awareness/"I" is contingent . . . received . . . gift. All of this implies a Giver, Creator.
I think we can say with assurance that what comes from the creative act of God is sin-free, but I do not know the depth to which sin has corrupted our nature. What we could say is that Christ has redeemed us at the deepest depth of our human nature, and so what comes from the hand of God comes into a redeemed human nature that is capable of abiding with God in Christ in those depths. It is also Christ who extends this relationship from the Self-God depth all the way out to Ego-Persona humans mired in sin and confusion, drawing us through love (truth and goodness as well) to heal the Ego that we might live more authentically and become the individual we were created to be. The Ego obviously has to co-operate in this work, for the Ego is the Self or individual human consciousness in its active operations.
Now let me propose to you all an intriguing possibility: could there be some spiritualities that are "attached" in an unhealthy way to abiding in the Self-God zone? What of those that devalue the Ego and individuation? I think, too, of spiritualities that (to me) overly emphasize awareness to the detriment of reflectivity, critical thinking, and discerning intentionality? If one is in pain Egoically, wouldn't it be attractive to have no-Ego and live passively in awareness, without pain?
Fact is that He also created sin…
From my point of view, the issue to tackle is not to get rid of sin, but rather to reconcile with it. What one might summarize as “sinful acts” is a typical characteristic of the material world, the world in which not only the ego, but also the Ego dwells. The difference between an Ego and an ego is that the former is aware of this “problem” and the latter is not. The Ego directs its forces towards Him, while the ego focuses its resources away from Him.
Therefore, the ego/Ego indeed is very important, since it must be(come) convinced to walk towards Him. However, the ego/Ego belongs to the material world, and the person who wants to go higher arrives at an unavoidable moment where he has to leave behind his Ego. But in order to return to the material world, that same person has to take up again his Ego, or he would not be able to operate (I think that in Buddhist traditions they believe that a Buddha is at meditative equipose at all time). Thus, it is not a question of using or not using the Ego, but rather when and when not putting the Ego in charge. The Ego is only part of the work on Earth, not for what we have to accomplish in Heaven.
aion, sin and evil are not created, but are the consequence of the misuse of freedom.
Now you're doing ego/Ego, which my schema does not recognize. For me, there is no "ego" separate from Ego, as though these are two separate levels or types of consciousness. What we have is an Ego that is pulled in different directions by energies/forces within and without. Rom. 7:14-23 describes our dilemma very well. There is no ego for the Ego to renounce. There is, however, all sorts of sinful attachments and attitudes to renounce as the Ego draws closer to God in relationship.
That kind of decision is the province of Ego, not some other aspect of consciousness. What I would say instead is that the Ego needs to be responsible for its decisions, including the decision to detach and "let-God" when that is what is called for.
As for Heaven . . . we will just have to wait and see. "Duality" and Oneness are constituent of God's very nature (God being both One and three Centers of relationship). The "structure" of love entails at least two, and if Heaven is any kind of celebration of love, then you may be sure that we will be there in some manner as individual persons.
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