Posted by: Michael George Daniel | November 19, 2007

Ego Perforations

In M. Scott Peck’s book, The Road Less Traveled, Doctor Peck describes the need to give up parts of our self in order to move forward in life. He describes this as an aspect of discipline that entails balancing between conflicting needs, goals and desires. In order to achieve balance, we constantly need to give up something in exchange for something else. Giving up parts of ourself is painful. Yet when we do not give up what is needed, we can not achieve the balance needed to move forward in life and the result is likewise painful, sometimes more painful than the alternative.

This example brings up a couple of related issues that, taken together, help draw the picture of the relationship between our psychological make up and broader sustainability in the world. If we can appreciate this relationship, then the work we can do as individuals will become more meaningful, and we can be energized the the higher purpose it generates. As we will see, this higher purpose provides a self-reinforcing loop in that it represents a life theme. Orienting to a life theme is at the heart of our personal work, so the two go hand in hand; work introspectively to reveal the emotional content of our lives keeping us from achieving a more authentic life purpose, recognize how this helps the  entire world, be inspired by this good work, recognize it as part of the life theme we were seeking in the first place.

The giving up aspect of growth also provides important glimpses into a relationship with the world that is not ego dependent. These are perforations in the ego that begin to allow an experience of existing in relationship with all that is outside of ourself. It also allows for growth of the self by letting in new experience, information and knowledge. This is the dropping of our beliefs, conditionings, expectations and current state of mind to experience people, places and things with a clear mind. The same clear mind that is spoken of in the Zen tradition.

But there is a paradox here, among several, worth discussing. The first is the need to have something to give up before it can be given up. In the case of our ego, we have to go through the process of developing strong self images before we can break them. As for the world, this too is the case with our scientific consciousness, or any other period in history you might choose. It is the sheer success of these personas, whether personal, national or global in nature, that creates the struggle for releasing them so that something new can arise. We find ourselves particularly challenged currently because of both the strength and entrenchment of the existing paradigm, by virtue of its very success, and because of the urgency of the need to change toward a sustainable existence on the Earth.

At the heart of Peck’s book is an even more powerful idea. It is that love is not the sensation that we all know (and love) of falling in love, or engaging in sexual acts, or romance. Rather it is an expansive inspiring connection with all of mankind, and even beyond. An ecstatic experience accompanies this love. It is the experience of oneness so often spoken of, even in this book. Ultimately, we have argued, it is a feeling for the essence of all things as we understand it today as the A-field. And through which we have a connection of consciousness that can actually provide us with an ability to know and be in any place at any time as anything through the so-called akashic records. Ironically, this experience is not achieved by extending our self out in a continuous process of individuation. Instead it occurs during periods of ego collapse – those times when we become willing to shed that which makes us what we are as individuals today so that we may allow some new aspect in and integrate it. We do this in school, we do this in therapy, during spiritual growth, for our children, and when we fall in love.

Peck writes, “Falling in love is not an extension of one’s limits or boundaries’ it is a partial and temporary collapse of them.” A little later, he points out the irony of the preceding statement: “Having proclaimed that the experience of “falling in love” is a sort of illusion which in no way constitutes real love, let me conclude by shifting into reverse and pointing our that falling in love is in fact very, very close to real love.” The reason for the contrast has to do with the nature of real love that involves the psychological incorporation of the object of our love. This incorporation involves a penetration of the ego and a shift into a selflessness that acknowledges the characteristics of that which we love. When we fall in love, our ego shell falls away, allowing an image of the one we love to merge with our own self image. This incorporation, as Peck puts it, enlarges the self and extends the bounds of the ego. The self evolves as a result of this integration with the object of love. ”

Throughout our lives, we incorporate objects of love over and over. As we do this, our ego boundaries stretch and thin. And as our ego boundaries become blurred and thinned, we become more open to ‘falling in love with the rest of the world’. We begin more and more to experience the same sort of feeling or ecstasy that we have when our ego boundaries partially collapse and we “fall in love”.

An easily accessible example of this is the experience of sexual activity when our present sense of our self falls away momentarily during orgasm. This is also the experience of mystical union that we have been studying. It is a result of allowing our ego-based beliefs to fall away so that we may fall in love with the rest of the universe, in addition to ourselves, and in doing so, experience ecstasy such that we recognize our place among the cosmos and our role in maintaining this connection.

Yet we return to the need to include evolution in this process. As infants, we may be endowed with the clear mind to achieve a mystical union with the universe, but our survival depends on developing a strong enough sense of self to navigate the world. Yet it is the process of releasing these developed personas without giving up the skills need to survive and thrive that results in our moving toward greater communion. One begets the other. We constantly crucify ourselves so that we might incorporate some greater aspect of the universe. As this integration spreads outward through the individuation/integration cycle, we get closer to offering other the life systems our own love that they and we need to survive over the coming years.

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