Observations on the Phenomenology of Ego and Self,
and Implications for Ending the Age of Terrorism Peacefully
Reflections, June 10, 2010jsc
This essay is based on observations (Deikman Observing Self) of the inner workings of the human psyche described here as the phenomenology of ego and self. This essay paints in broad brush the ego/self dance that gives existence to my sense of "me" in any given moment. Ego/self or Self/ego, the capitalization indicates who leads and who follows. (I and Thou, Buber) The premise is this: who leads and who follows in the ego/self dance determines the quality of the outcome of all human behavior, and all the more so the outcome of the vectors (World War Three) at play in the age of terrorism in which we live. A fundamental thesis herein is that steps toward "higher level" human development (Amazon, Maslow) are taken when Self leads and ego follows. Some broad strokes. Our normal waking "ordinary" consciousness can be defined as a felt sense (Amazon, Gendlin) of "me-ness" moving through space and time in a three-dimensional universe. We know there is a fourth dimension (and probably more) and that altered states of consciousness uncover a larger "me" revealed in these other dimensions is not in dispute. For purposes of this essay the felt sense of "me" in any given moment is where "I" am, my center of gravity in the dance of ego/self.
Observation reveals that human inner psychic energies are organized by "field forces" that undoubtedly mirror manifestations of the centripetal and centrifugal forces at work in the physical universe. The centripetal "force" of ego pulls me inside and creates a senses of "I-ness" in what is widely recognized as ego-centeredness; the centrifugal "force" of self pushes me out and creates a sense of "I-ness" that is other-centeredness. In other words each side of ego/self polarity has its own center and which is dominant in any given moment is the "I-ness" of "Me" that determines moment to moment of experience.
That our prevalent consciousness is more ego-like and less self-like most of the time speaks to the patriarchal-consciousness-operating-system of the human mind now thousands of years old. Perhaps it is time for a system upgrade to a form of consciousness that can be thought of as an information technology that is nonsexist and gender neutral. Whatever the operating system in our consciousness, ego references a sense of satisfaction that infuses me with a flush of energy and a sense of power that comes from mastery over other as this is essential for survival. Wolf becomes wolf onto man (Amazon, Freud). With mastery as the sui generis of the phenomenology of ego the objective other is to be desired/used/ killed/played with depending on circumstance. The ego acting out a sense of awareness that what protects and gives pleasure is moral, and that which gives pain or endangers existence is immoral. In this cosmology of person the individual ego atom becomes the center of human existence. (Amazon, Atomistic and Democritus) With such a cosmology of person, the warrior serves the god of war to protect and defend the me. Given that masculine values hierarchically dominant in human conscious development at this time in human history, can we be surprised war is touted as the ultimate answer to what ails us? That alternative forms of consciousness showing us "The Way" have survived and are in existence is a sign of hope. There is another way if we want it. Self is the felt sense of being human that connects the I of "me" to other in loving embrace, a feeling of deep connection to the "heart" of the other. In altered state of consciousness other can be experienced as one-with-me in orgasmic bliss where I and You become One. This at-one-ness can be experienced at sexual and non-sexual levels. We all know these things to be true; we all have access to these experiences, or at least the healthy ones among us do. You and not me separate and yet related in love (Love is Universal) and all good things are possible. Me locked up inside and all bad things become possible. These are our moral and ethical concerns: If each ego atom is the center of its own universe, what governs ego's conduct with the other, and where is the limit to ego power found in an atomistic cosmology of human development? Is it not self-evident that when Ego is dominant, war is the ultimate answer, meaning the human assertion of power to override God's will as stated in the Sixth Commandment, "Thou shall not kill'? It is very reasonable to assume that Eve's sin was an assertion of ego, her will over God's will. Humans continue to make that assertion (men can't blame Eve for her mistake when they continue to make her assertion), even though God sent His Son to tell us otherwise by example. We know how the story of our time will end if it continues on its present course. My use of Jewish and Christian mythology of truth-telling stories (Amazon, Campbell) to tell the story of ego and self is an accident of personal history. This story is repeated again and again in all faiths, and all true faiths are founded in Love. (Amazon, Cosmic Christ)
Let us contemplate: If Self should lead our moment-to-moment experience, lead the dance of energy, what other worlds, what other cosmologies possible? Imagine.
Transforming "me-ness" so that Self leads the dance is an act of conscious will. We are given ego to survive, we are given self to transform. I choose to make Self supreme in that any action needed for a desired outcome and ego serves that purpose. Such an act of will itself will be a struggle as the inner Id forces beg to satisfy the ego’s needs and wants. And, the Ego is always afraid. The Self understands Jesus' command, "Be not afraid". Not so different as when a ballerina flies across the room in defiance of gravity, an act of will; a higher order of collective human development becomes possible when the "Observing I" chooses to put self over ego. The Self/ego pairing becomes the dominant experience of me moment-to-moment, in which my being with the other is dominant over my being over the other. Love is the highest form of Life and a standard hard even for saints to bear. William Blake said, "We are put on earth in a little space in order to learn to bear the beams of love." And, as is a major thesis in this world view (Vision) if I may not be able to love my brother and sister as I should, for we all are weak, we get our day in court. Law of Love is to heaven in Heaven as the Rule of Law is to heaven on earth. Until the law of Love is upon us, the rule of Law is the next best thing. Living in peace with my brother and sister under the rule of law justly applied is heaven on earth, for law well done brings a felt sense of "good enough" on any given day. This basic sense of fairness for all intents and purposes is as close to heaven on earth that we humans can get. But not bad, considering the alternative. Is this not what the founding fathers and mother intended when they included Justice as the first order of business? " We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America." Can we imagine a "We the People" supporting a World of Nations by 2020, the next step in global legal development. Justice. What law turns my brother and sister into my enemy is birthed by an ego-dominant consciousness with the Ego pulling "me" inward, to protect my life over the other if needed. Out of this way of being it naturally follows that the god of war becomes the final arbiter in settling human disputes, for war is the ultimate assertion of ego. Life goes on when we kill and fail to love one another, but we are as far from peace on earth that is possible when the rule of law prevails. (War or Law) From a human developmental psychological perspective, ego dominance is a delusional (Amazon, Buddhism) state of mind. Out of ignorance we do not comprehend our truest human nature, for is not peace our dearest common prayer? Those who pray for war for the sake of war are evil, but they are not majority. Even those who believe in necessity of war pray for peace. How would this kind of peace be possible? Living in community in service of the other - this is a cosmology and a way of defining "being human" that represents a "higher level" of human development. To exist as a "me" I accept as my true nature that I am interconnected and interrelated with all others whether my ego nature likes that fact of creation or not; the truth is that the atom has no existence apart from the whole. And, what is more so, "I" feel most "myself", the true center of "me-ness" when the "I" of my "me-ness" is at peace with my ego and my world. When we experience a deep sense of Self; we experience a deep sense of peace. At least the healthy ones amongst us do. Our perspective broadens our sense of self, such that it isn't just this little-me but "I" encompassing all other - the great I Am. We are at our best and our worst depending on what we believe about what is right and wrong in our conduct with the other. With Ego as the supreme power conducting the affairs of daily global life as events are playing themselves out in 2010 World War Three seems inevitable by 2050. To assume that once again the god of war will not overpower the goddess of justice is to bet against history. It is also to bet against the masculine-dominant consciousness in the age of patriarchy. In such a consciousness in is matter of fact not blame that ego dominates. The good news is that the balancing polarity in the gender dance (the human psyche is structured around many polarities) is rising world-wide as humanity awaits the Third Wave of Feminism. It may happen yet that women will save the day. At issue is whether women and the men who love them will truly embrace the Self, for if by faulty seeing the third wave of feminism is ego dominant in the dance of "Me" and believers subscribe to an atomistic cosmology of human development, we can predict women will become the dominant gender in defense of Ego. Woman on top, women on bottom there is no difference without transformation of self to Self in both genders. (Amazon, Sexual Politics) The history of war is the history of what happens when ego values are dominant and the history of justice is the history of what happens when self values spring through to calm the violence. In the future of human development when the Goddess of Justice rules, the God of War can retire. And the Warrior, Active and Passive become Her servant. (Global Warrior Consciousness) The goddess of Justice infuses Self, which by nature of its underlying force is other-oriented, with an enlightened state of being (Amazon, Being, Heidegger). This empowers "me" to want to treat the other with fairness, as I would a brother or sister on any given day. In this social contract I receive fairness in return. Life being fair enough on any given day is as close to heaven on earth as humans can achieve, and good enough to qualify as the Age of Peace on earth. I may not always agree with the law, but it sure beats the alternative. The inevitability of human conflict can be the fodder for resolution by agreed- upon "customs of fairness". And, there are police backed up by Special Forces (active warriors) to enforce the law, for evil will always be with us as a sign of our free will. The Age of Terrorism in which we live, if it is to end peacefully, will happen when a majority of global citizens are willing to join in a higher order of human interconnectedness and an enhanced sense of community (global human consciousness) in which the fundamental purpose of living is to serve the other. Life and living becomes less about ego (power over others), and more and more about self (power with others) in which ego steps back in service of the Self focused on loving embrace of Other. The essence of this way of thinking is captured by the world view of communitarianism.
What social and cultural models could guide us in imagining such a world, humanity taking the next step to global civil order, before and not after World War Three? When we study "higher order" communities in human development we find monastic communities as seen in faiths. Thus, offering a vision for a way forward to ending our age of terrorism peacefully. At the heart of the teachings and discipline of these communities ego must be subservient to the self in service of other when Love is the standard of human interaction. Humanity is filled with such love stories across all faith traditions.
I find the story of Jesus's Passion as good a story as any prism through which all loving light can shine to see the message of Love. Christ's Passion is a perfect example of the Self sacrificing ego for Other, to be killed and not to kill. Those who viewed Gibson's movie "The Passion" about the unfortunate and hate-filled story of the relationship of Christians and Jews (a story to be told for sure), and sometimes a story of loving connection as well, miss the point: It's about the Blood. The story asks us: Do we continue to shed blood to settle our human disputes with warriors sworn to the god of war in defense of Ego, or do warriors swear allegiance to the goddess of Justice to witness and enforce the law? Imagine Special Global Forces trained as active warriors (Global Warrior) sworn to serve the Goddess of Justice and enforce global law; imagine Peace warriors, passive warriors sworn to Mary, Mother of God (and her equivalents in every culture where the feminine is part of the godhead) in passive resistance to ease the suffering, to aid the sick and dying, to comfort the children willing to sacrifice themselves in the Name of Love. Think of Buddhist monks in self immolation to protest war. To die as Christ did, forgiving those who persecute the innocent. Peace warriors, Gandhi-like, marching unarmed, perhaps to be martyred while witnessing and caring for those caught in acts of war and crimes against humanity, only now with the whole world watching. Is this not what the church's early martyrs did? Early Christian were slaughtered, they were not the slaughterers. How much blood would need to be shed by passive and active warriors sworn to uphold global laws before ego is placed in its proper role as servant to the Self in human development? Bloodshed in the name of Justice, guided by the God of Love. One could project humanity doing battle with war itself.
It is my prayer that the day will come the when the goddess of justice rules, and the god of war is put to rest. Ego subservient to self, the ego self polarity now having a balance of power that favors using power to sacrifice for the other as Jesus did. Humanity has many different ways of telling the story of ego sacrifice in the name of love, so I imagine many being drawn to this way of thinking. We just have to look within, for love is universal. If we must die, better to die in the name of Justice, for this is the way to, "Peace on Earth." Not the peace of heaven for sure, but a peace based on law, fair enough on any given day, is so much better than the terror of war unbounded. Can we not agree that until the Law of Love rules the Rule of Law is the next-best thing?
This path to peace on earth will only happen when human development grapples with this essential struggle of human existence as seen in the phenomenology of ego and of self. From inner transformation to outer transformation, there is a way forward. This is not pie in the sky dreaming, for humans now have the tools to make it happen with internet global connectedness and knowledge of how the ego/self can be transformed by will to be guided by justice infused with love. It is only a matter of imagination and global human will and a critical mass to change the whole for the Age of Peace through Justice to be upon us. Like our ancestors before us we can take the next jump in human development, or we can stay stuck as some of ancestors did, stay in the trees for fear of the leap. Fear is the enemy of love for "Perfect love casts out fear". Ending the Age of Terrorism, Peacefully, and ushering in the Age of Peace that future can be as sure as any, but to get there requires the choice to consciously will Self over ego in service of Other. In the end humans have free will to choose war or law, which will be our future? The answer depends on who leads the ego/self dance.