|Essay from August 2010
"Ego and Allegiance"
A book called ZEN PHYSICS offers one more statement of an old occult lesson I first stumbled on years ago, that we must
transfer allegiance from ego to THAT. One group defined THAT as "the Primal Will to Good which eternally creates and sustains the Universe." Some would want to call it simply "God," but that word carries with it a lot of unnecessary baggage we don't really need. I no longer distinguish "the Primal Will to Good" from the Universe itself. I think The Whole Thing has will, is will, wills Good, is all, is in all, and is in all those precious connections.|
The ego is a function of the brain. It will not function after the brain dies. Consciousness is not a function of the brain. Consciousness is a quality of The Whole Thing. When we humans escape ego, through meditation, altered states [some of which can be induced or forced by certain drugs], fasting or near-dying, we encounter consciousness. Some have called it Super-Consciousness, to distinguish it from the self- consciousness which we could also call ego-consciousness. And again, some are quick to short-circuit this thought process by calling Superconsciousness "God." Let's not do that right off the bat.
Freud and Jung spoke of the Unconscious, although what they described was not lacking in consciousness. They referred to a type of consciousness that functioned effectively and perfectly below the level of our individual awareness, doing things like growing fingernails and governing blood chemistry. Some have wanted to call it the Sub-Conscious, rather than the Unconscious.
Jung maintained that there was only one Sub-Conscious and that we all "participate" in the same one. Sometimes Jung's use of Unconscious or SubConscious seemed equivalent to what liberal Protestant theologians called "God," and they liked Jung, on that account. But once again, I think they were short-circuiting the process of thinking about these things.
Self-Consciousness, or Ego, is a survival device. Its function is to preserve itself, and the brain and organism that invented it. It can be very useful in the task of self-preservation, using memory and inference and imagination to keep alive the individual organism. "Sabre-toothed tigers live down that path." "The last time those wolves chased me, it helped to climb a tree."
In a culture like ours, committed to individualism, achievement, and celebrity-worship, ego can cause much trouble. "I'm not measuring up." "I'm a failure." "I'm growing old." "Why am I so rejected and lonely?" Death looms as the final insult and injury. Ego suffers greatly, watching its own pending demise approach inexorably.
The trick is to transfer loyalty, and it probably works better if tried not at the last minute. Transfer loyalty from ego to The Whole Thing, as was stated at the outset. A distinction between religion and philosophy can be made at this point. Religion, especially Christianity, enhances ego, claiming to preserve it and comfort it, by lying to it, one dare say. "You will survive, if you do this and this." "Submit to the following authorities, and you can avoid the consequences of your past behavior and your participation in organic life. Other individual forms face annihilation, but we can save you from that." Philosophy, when it really is the love of wisdom, the love of finding out and knowing, can help us think clearly about ego, and transcend it.
Christianity has become a major means by which many people who are not inclined to do much careful thinking about these things inoculate themselves against the need to face reality. There is no net beneath us to catch the ego when it falls. And many are not focusing carefully on the thin taut thread that holds us up momentarily out of that burning fiery pit, that black oblivion down below, using Jonathan Edwards' graphic metaphor to describe the existence of individual life forms. We spend decades pretending that the situation is not serious, but that does not make it less serious than it is. The ego is doomed. Christianity will not save it. Pretending it is not doomed will not save it.
We have work to do. Can we construct a reality-based belief system and a willingly accepted pattern of life of the sort that would enable us to live life fully and honestly, all of it, that is, including clear-headed acceptance of the fact that it ends? That victorious attitude could have some influence on how it ends, I believe. It is clear that denial of truth will not effect what the truth really is.