The Nature of the Ego
by James Clair Lewis
In Buddhism they say that the Ego is an Illusion composed of Five Aggregates, which cease to exist when one attains Nirvana. The various schools of Buddhism explain these Five Skandhas in slightly different ways, but they can be enumerated as :
1) Physicality (the body)
2) Sensation (the five senses)
4) Cognition (thoughts, images, memory)
5) Attitude (world view or mindset)
Note that this is not exactly how the Buddhists define the Five Skandhas, but it will serve for our discussion. Each of the Five Aggregates can be shown to be changable & impermanent, and therefore to be an Illusion. Since the personality is composed of these Illusions, it is reasoned that the Ego is an Illusion as well. In Buddhism it is taught that dissolving the Illusions of the Ego is the Path to Illumination. In Theravadin Buddhism, it is taught that the Ego itself dissolves when one attains Enlightenment.
Those of you who are advanced in Spellwork know that the material world is an illusion, because conditions around you can be altered through the use of Magick. Conditions in the material world are not carved in stone, but are the results of what people create through their actions, emotions, thoughts & attitudes. The Illusions of the five senses give people the belief that it is otherwise, that material conditions determine what is possible & what will be. Getting beyond this Illusion is an important first step. What follows is a process of realizing, and getting beyond the illusions of emotions, thoughts & attitudes, through a similar process of insight.
We've all noticed that the Ego has control issues. The notion that the Ego itself is an Illusion is terrifying to the Ego. This is the reason why the Ego clings so tenaciously to material views of the world, and why it habitually involves itself in various dramas & struggles to distract you away from understanding life, and to maintain its domanance.
The Ego is an extention of the Soul, whose function is to interface with the material plane of existance, since the Soul being Spiritual cannot directly experience materiality. Consider that the Soul is like the brain, and the personality is like the stomach. The purpose of the brain is to think & direct the activities of the body, and the purpose of the stomach is to digest food. If the stomach were in control, the brain wouldn't get to think, because the stomach would be concentrating upon filfilling all of its appetites and material desires.
This is the situation that people who have not attained Enlightenment are in. The personality has usurpted control from the Soul, blocking the flow of the Divine Light from manefesting in the physical world, and gets one addicted to all of the troubles one can find in life. Note that all of the Great Spiritual teachers throughout history, had personalities, & senses of humor. The Ego does not dissolve into nothingness when one becomes Illuminated, rather it merely releases its control, assumes its proper role in the scheme of things, and gets to experience the great Joy & Serenity of the Divine in all...
The Western Mind reacts to the Theravadin Buddhist teaching that the Ego is an Illusion by refusing to consider it at all. The Mahayana viewpoint is easier for the Western Mind to accept, since it does not deny the existance of anything, but instead point towards an Enlightened way to deal with it. A point from the Hindu/Vedantic teachings is in order. They speak a lot about the importance of non-attachment.
The personality, or Ego is composed of the Five Skandhas. You have a body, but you are not your body. It is just a vehicle that you wear around your soul while you are alive. You have senses, but you are not your senses, you are merely experiencing them. Certainly you have feelings, but would you define yourself as being feelings? You think, but do you think you are thoughts? Or do you think you are one who has thoughts? You have attitudes, but if you define yourself as being your attitudes, then you confine yourself to them, and cannot be aware of anything beyond the attitudes that you hold.
Obviously, you cannot function on the Material Plane without a personality. That has not been suggested. It is the defining of yourself as BEING your Ego, that limits the expression of your True Self. The Soul is Infinite & Eternal, springing from the Heart of the Divine. The Ego is merely a vehicle that the Soul uses to interface with the Physical World. You basicly grow a new one for each incarnation. Believing that you are your Ego, rather than that you have one, is one basic difference between UnEnlightened people, and the Enlightened...
In the Western Traditions they speak of the Hermetic Marriage, the fusion of the the lower self with the Real Self. The lower self is the Ego or personality with all of its attachments to the things of the mundane material world. The Soul is that spark of Eternity which experiences the lower planes through the Ego. When you have those peak experiences, where you see the Divine Nature of things, the transcendental Order of the Universe, the Celestial Harmony of Life, then your consciousness has risen up in vibration to the Spiritual Plane. This is not the Hermetic Marriage, but it could be consider a date.
When people first experience Astral Projection, they generally see themselves as floating in the air, looking down at their physical body. In the same way, when the consciousness vibrates on the Spiritual Plane, you can look down and see your personality with all of its strengths & weaknesses. Recognizing that you are not your body, but that the body is just a vehicle for you to use, is a step on the Path. Recognizing that you are not your Ego, but that your Ego is just a vehicle for you to use, is a further step along the Path.
What lies within, reflects without. Recognize the Enlightenment that is within you. Our true nature is Divine, Infinite, and Eternal. You are a spark of the Limitless Light, without beginning or ending, beyond form or substance, the Essence of Love. So Mote It Be.
You know, when people first do Astral Projection, that they usually float up out of their body, and see it lying there below them. That's a fairly clear indication that you are not your body. Similarly, when you travel beyond the Astral Plane to the Mental Plane, you can look down, & see all of your chakras, energy channels, and other Occult organs. This demonstrates that while you have an Astral Body, that it is no more you, than your physical body. Now when someone goes beyond the Mental Plane, above the Astral Plane, and begins to percieve on the Spiritual Plane, you will look down & see your Ego, (your ideas, beliefs and attitudes), as forming a mental body, below you. People usually think of themselves as being their Ego, but it is not any more true than thinking that the physical or Astral bodies are you.
The truth is, that you are your soul, and that the soul is eternal & infinite. People often have experiences where they feel the Presence of God. The Ego looks up, and sees something eternal & infinite, a great Spiritual Light, and the Ego thinks it has seen God. What the Ego has actually seen, is your Soul, which is a spark of the Cosmic Consciousness. When the Ego realizes this in full, and allows your Soul full & free expression through it, then one has attained Illumination. It is after one has attained Enlightenment, that one can begin to search for God, before that, you are merely discovering yourself, and your True nature...
Although this world is called Maya, that does not mean we can discount personal experience and observation. The Revelations of the Divine come from the inmost planes & dimensions of Reality. The Subjective mind tries to find symbols understandable to the Objective mind to explain conditions, properties, and laws governing things that are not apparent in the material world. The history of religion is rife with mistakes in translation...
My experience has been that between incarnations, the Soul is bathed in the Clear Light. Then, whatever bad attitudes, mistaken opinions, misguided objectives, and other assorted mental junk, that the Soul is willing to let go of, will be washed away, as resolved Karma. What remains, determines the initial conditions and family dynamics of the next incarnation. Things that are carried over from one incarnation to the next, are physical, cognitive, & empathic skills, as well as deeply held attitudes & mindset.
At Birth, the Mother's body severs the connection between herself and the foetus, and the Soul takes full possesion of the new body, basicly with the First Breath, as the Ancients would say. A human being is the fusion of a physical body with a transcendental Soul. A human being is not merely a physical body or potential one.
To begin with, the Soul has to forge a new neural matrix in the developing brain, so that it can physically, and cognitively interact with the surrounding world. A new personality is grown for each incarnation. Engrained ways of thinking and dealing with things will persist, but there is considerable room for adoption of attitudes present in the family and surrounding environment. Through Karma, you gravitate initial conditions for your new life.
Babies need to hear a lot of music, (especially classical, and other ethereal music), combined in a good mix of the best of many genres, because it helps them to sort things out. Also, geometric toys, will stimulate higher thought processes. Meditation, and physical training (like swimming, etc), should be introduced early enough to aid in the formation of core discipline towards optimum, (not too much or too little).
The further back I've looked into Time, the more of a jerk, or just plain ignorant asshole I used to be. There's lots of stuff I have no interest in ever doing again. So there is always some hope for progress. Now all of this comes from the sequential view of Time. It is valid in the material world in the same way that particle physics is valid. Both work in general easily enough, but particle physics leads toward an infinity of ever tinier problems to solve. Wave Theory is about to change the face of Science, and how we look at Elementary Forces, and the Standing Waves of phenomena. Events exist all along the wave front of Time. In the Eternal Now of the Soul, all Time is simultaneous. This is what boggles the Mind. The Ego sees the Soul, and knows that it is eternal, yet can't grasp or accept the infinity within it.
Perhaps is would be better not to beat the Ego up over the Enlightenment Issue? The Infinity within is greater than the Infinity without, and that is just a bit scary for such a fragile thing. I like the analogy of the TaxiCab
The taxi is your body. The cabbie is your Ego. Your Real Self is the passenger. The passenger was deliberately vague about the destination. The cabbie has to pay attention to the road conditions, while driving the taxi. And this seems to add a difficulty for the cabbie, when trying to understand what the passenger has to say. Not to mention the fact that the cabbie & the passenger don't actually speak the same language.
They don't exactly speak the same language, because the perpective is so very different. The Soul exists simultaneously throughout all of Time, but the Ego is focused in the Present. When congruity of vibration happens, the person experiences a good taste of Enlightenment. In those moments, one is serene, and easily can see the Divine in all things within & without. There is no fear, because one sees that all Life partakes of immortality in Essence.
When the Ego attaches itself to hopes & fears, or to ephemeral desires, or falls prey to frustrations, anger, or ignorance, then it is out of balance, and cannot hear the Wisdom that the Soul is always speaking. This is why the Ego may dip into Enlightenment at times, and then fall astray again into confusion. Again, Grounding establishes a firm foundation from which one can proceed towards an increasing understanding of how things are, how they ought to be, and what we can do to make it so...
We all know that from the Upanishads to the Buddhist Sutras, from the works of Alchemy to the Qabala, and woven throughout all New Age Metaphysical literature, there is a lot of teaching that the lower self must be overcome. Now how is a self-respecting Ego, supposed to deal with that?
It's begins life abruptly & often quite rudely, and soon realizes that it can't control its body very well, and that it is totally helpless. Next it figures out how to interact with the mundane world, and adopts a physical & temporal view of the world from what facts & conjectures it finds in its environment. Now if that wasn't tough enough, the next step is a real doozy.
After all this work that the Ego feels that it has done, it discovers that everything it has been told is false. Moreover, it discovers that after all of its hard labor, that it isn't really in charge at all, but is simply a medium that the Soul uses for expression in the lower worlds, a mask worn by a transcendental being outside of Time & Space akin to a god. People have visions, and experiences with Guardian Angels, Spirit Guides, etc, but these are just symbols the Ego manufactures, to deal with the fact that what they really are, are communications to the Ego from your True Self. It is difficult for something that has been trained to be localized in its point of view, to accept that its real Nature is Infinite & Eternal.
We're talking about some very heady stuff here, so I figured I'd lighten it up, by showing the humor in the predicament the Ego finds itself in...
~whacks self over the head with a Zen Stick~
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