Tuesday 26 November 2013

Self Deception and Ego

As a follow up to my previous post, "Prejudice and Self Deception," I would like to develop some thoughts about the ego, and the part it plays in deceiving us into believing that its illusions are truths. But first I need to describe, and try again to clarify, what I mean by ego. It may help if I use a variety of analogies. Of course analogies have their limits, but if I can get across the feeling of what I am trying to say, perhaps some progress can be made towards mutual understanding.

The anatomy of the ego can be said to consist of our thinking function, our feeling function and our senses. Dr. Paul Brunton has written extensively on the ego and, if memory serves, follows this structure. It is also strongly implied by the lower Sephiroth of the Tree of Life, the central glyph of the psychological/spiritual structure of mankind used in studies of the mystical Qabalah. If the anatomical structure of the ego is important, then even more so is the physiological workings of the ego. Once again, Dr. Paul Brunton has written at great length on this subject in his diaries.

If it can be said that the ego is the engine that drives us forward in our endeavours, and this surely cannot be doubted, that engine can also be put into reverse. Furthermore, all engines need to work within safe parameter values, they need to be governed and controlled. They must always play a secondary role to the driver. Consider another, analogous, source of power, the nuclear power station. Let the controls be obstructed or removed, and total meltdown is the result. Anyone who has suffered the advanced effects of addiction, or who has lived with those problems, knows about the resulting effects, about the undeniable, spiritual devastation or meltdown that follows from rampant egoism. I pick that particular problem because I know something about that subject, but there are many more problems that result in insane behaviour caused by giving the ego licence to behave as it will.

I always need to remember and recognise that although great good can be achieved by harnessing the power of the ego, that energy needs to be harnessed and reined. Without those controls, what can happen? It would appear that the ego searches, neverendingly, for something to latch onto. When that happens, that on which it latches loses any autonomy and becomes identified with the ego. How many times have we heard someone say,

"I am angry!" or "I am happy!" or "I am" anything that comes to hand.

The truth is that no-one is either one or some combination of their personality characteristics. It is legitimate to say that I feel anger, or that I feel a sense of happiness. That is not the same as total identification with anger or happiness. It is this physiological structure of the ego that leads us into accepting illusions as if they were truths. These may seem trivial examples of the identifying or owning power of the ego, known in the East as Ahamkara. So let me present some other examples.

We know that people have a tendency to become identified with their thoughts, their achievements, their work, their particular roles in life - family, professional, political, and many more - and material possessions. Where does 'road rage' come from, but from an identification of the Self with a car, as if the Self is the car? Let's up the anti! Where has the persecution of minorities large and small come from, but from an identification, an owning of a philosophy - good or bad - by the ego. Ahamkara! In each case the engine of the ego is twinned with pride/arrogance and other unsavoury characteristics of our personality. And what lies behind the Eastern (and not necessarily Eastern) problem of 'losing face'? Do I need answer my question? 

The point is that we are not our thoughts; we are not our feelings; we are not our bodies and senses. We are something else!

Let me approach the problem of self deception from another angle, a more God-oriented but not necessarily religious point of view. And this is particularly relevant to those who follow, or who wish to follow, a contemplative lifestyle. Let me quote some words by Ruth Burrows OCD:-

"We are born to die, yet have a tenacious attachment to our natural being, a need for the created world and a will towards happiness, security, fulfilment as we conceive these things. Instinctively we want to live life on our own terms, in our world, not God's. (my italics). Even when we think we want God [or union with the divine Ground of our Being-ness], it is as often as not with our own conditions, our own expectations [the conditions and expectations of the ego].  [my brackets]."

"Mystical contemplation is not the reserve of a small elite; ............it is for all. Sadly we block [that process] God. We do not want God [the process of mystical contemplation]; we want ourselves [our egos] and a God who fits our own requirements. Moreover we are not prepared to do what we can to clear the way for him."

I have, as I indicated it was my intention, tried to get across the feeling, or is it passion, of what I am trying to say. I have tried to speak from the depths of my own terrifying experiences of my ego. There will be many, some may even read these words, who have not indulged in the foolishness of my mistakes. But my mistakes are mine to live with, and from them I have learned much. Every day of my life I am aware of the need of my ego to attach itself to, and own, whatever lies within its reach. In the end truth will not be found in anything I write, but in the experience, painful or otherwise, that life chooses to teach me.

Monday 25 November 2013

Prejudice and Self Deception

It has been opined on a number of occasions that the ego, that sense of I-ness, has a function; it has a task to fulfil. What that task is, I must confess, no longer bothers or even interests me very much. What does interest me, however, is the study of the energies that seem to drive the forces for ego-manifestation. Counter or circumvent those energies, and the ego is brought under some measure of control. I am in no doubt about the strength of the force that the ego can exert in its drive towards some kind of manifestation. Indeed, it is so powerful that I feel helpless against it. Unable to watch the process of manifestation when it is taking place, because it happens in an instant, it is only when I am released from the grip of my ego that the awareness dawns that I have been some place else.

One particular form of energy onto which the ego latches its hooks is the energy involved in the maintaining of prejudice and self deception. All too often, and without realising it, a mode of mental and emotional behaviour has been adopted that may be at complete variance to anything approaching reality. Only later, or sometimes but dimly whilst it is happening, is it seen how easily we have been hijacked by our egos. There was a time when I simply wrote off these descents into unreality as a passing phase of some ill-conceived fantasy. It'll pass, I thought; it's not that important. But it was important, because every time it happened the descent became easier until eventually it became habitual.   

It was as if I were walking the circumference of a sphere, taking a great circle route that made, from long usage, an ever-deepening trench. So long as I stayed in the safe trap that was the trench, I continued to react unthinkingly. I needed to climb out of that trench, push my head above the parapet so to speak, before I could thoughtfully respond. And for every prejudice, there was yet another trench. Far beneath my feet, inside the sphere, turned the clockwork mechanism of my ego.

The problem with habitual behaviours, whatever their kind, deemed good or bad, is that they appear to arrogate to themselves their own, semi-independent personalities. They cling to life even when they may have outgrown their original validity and usefulness. I said above, whatever their kind, deemed good or bad, because it seems to me that prejudices 'in favour' are just as suspect as those 'against'. If I unwisely choose to allow a shell of prejudice to grow, then I build a bar to the experience of truth and, even further, an obstacle to union with the divine Ground of my Being. But removing that shell is far from easy. Self deception can be very subtle and difficult to detect. However, the consequences of rooting out that deception, and its associated denial, is an unimaginable, uplifting relief, and an ascent to a new sense of Beingness. 

Wednesday 20 November 2013

An Awareness of Presence

..........What is this sense of 'presence'? What is its name? Is it what the religious call God? I learned a great deal about God when I was a child. I knew that I was supposed to love him with all my heart. And I did try, but I did not like him very much, or what he would do to me if I sinned - which I felt I often did. In the deepest part of my child's heart I was very afraid of him. He was so much like my father, and I lived in terror of them both. In the end the strain of trying to love them both became too great. My father thankfully died and I turned away from God. Yet the sense of 'presence' remained and continues to do so.
          Maybe it is Jesus the Christ, though I do not think so. He was never really there for me. He was always too busy being perfect and suffering a lot. That still seems to be his major attraction for millions of people. Not for me. I tried hard enough, and for long enough, to be perfect, whatever that might mean. I do not need his blood and suffering: I have enough of my own.
          What of the Holy Spirit? In my childhood he, the third member of the divine trinity - a concept I never understood - was not spoken of very much. He was the mysterious one that I steered well clear of in case I accidentally blasphemed against him. Had I done so I would have been damned and eternally unforgiven. As a child, that was too terrible to contemplate. Yet was he not sent to be the Comforter?
          So who or what are you, this 'presence'? I do not know, so how can I name you? You seem to appear in various guises, often, I suspect, unrecognised. Sometimes I am aware you have been present only when you have moved aside, when I seem to catch a fleeting glimpse of you out of the corner of my left eye. When I think of you I am overcome by a deep sense of longing. Where does that come from? Whatever you are, you feel very real and very close.......... 
                                                                   [Excerpt from my private diaries]

It was in my twenties, with my first marriage showing the first deep cracks that would eventually lead to fracture, that I rebelled against, and rejected the idea of God. It was a very specific event followed by three days of total, inner darkness. Love seemed to be turning sour on me, not that I was greatly surprised. All my previous experience of relationships within my family had prepared me for this. Love was weakness, to be despised as a refuge for those without any strength of character. Duty and responsibility were the only things that mattered. Service in their names was what marked out a strong human being from the rest. And God, also of course, was love. That alone was sufficient cause to reject him.

Yet in rejecting God I did not become an atheist, a philosophy I rejected as arid, and without any more evidence to support it than there was material evidence to support theism. It was simply that God had become an irrelevance in my life. It took me many years to realise, with some relief, that what I had rejected was a fundamentalist, anthropomorphic concept of God. And that was the beginning, both of a descent into spiritual devastation, in which my life became a wasteland, and the eventual ascent to a new world of awakened spirituality, a world of love as I had never understood it before. 

During the many weeks I have mulled over this diary entry, I have discovered that what I thought was a probing into something about which I felt a great deal of confusion and uncertainty, has turned out to be a moment of some significance on my inner journey. However, that moment cannot stand in grand isolation in an inner universe that is a process of Becoming. There must be follow through, necessary consequences. I know in my heart what that development must entail if I am to stay on the path that all my judgement tells me is the correct path. Yet still I hesitate, put off the moment, and each time I do so something crops up to nudge me forwards. It must surely be wonderful and uplifting to have my footsteps thus guided, but at the same time my natural sense of rebellion says that, on occasion, it is also not a little annoying. What is this God, this presence, this Hound of Heaven that snaps gently but persistently at my heels?

The simple answer to that question is that I do not know. I have never known what that presence is, only that it is there, most often just out of sight, or at least hidden in full view. When it moves.......ah yes!.......then I receive an intimation of something beyond my understanding or conception. And I cannot escape the conviction that that presence is also a living and loving presence, and one that will not put up with any of my recalcitrance nonsense.

It isn't an easy path that I have chosen, yet it is one which I cannot not follow. And if that presence is God, that is to say the supreme focus of my life, then God is what I shall call it.

Friday 15 November 2013

Prayer of Activity

There are times when I am working on a practical subject, most often when it is related to something to do with my ongoing house renovation, that everything seems to come together in a way that seems to be magical or miraculous. It may be that I have spent many an hour pondering over a way to do something, trying to take everything that I can think of into account, to ensure a successful completion of the task. Of course that pondering, or mulling over a problem, is itself an act of discursive meditation, probing a problem from a variety of directions, feeling out the various factors involved in coming to a successful conclusion, or plan of action.

In the course of the work there may come a point where I realise that certain factors are slotting into place, factors that I had not thought to take into account. It is as if some invisible person has been looking over my shoulder, filling in the gaps I have missed, adjusting matters so that my decisions do not conflict with the practical reality that I am facing. It is then that I sense the presence of the miraculous. If I should choose to talk about that presence, I attempt to do so in a jokingly, half serious manner. Why? Because I immediately feel a sense of self-consciousness, almost embarrassment. Yet deep inside me, I know the experience of that otherness to be a potent reality.

It has been called, and I quote*:- 

".......... the prayer of activity, the kind of union we have when all or most of our attention must be concentrated on some task.........The whole nature of the activity is changed by this mutual presence. Let one go away and all is different.........."

* Ruth Burrows OCD, "Guidelines for Mystical Prayer", Chap. 9.

Monday 11 November 2013

Focus of Attention

Much has been said in spiritual literature about the need for one-pointed concentration on one's goal, the experience of unity with the ground of one's being. Yet there appears to be a contradiction at the heart of this process. To concentrate is to imply that I must "do something", but "doing something" implies an activity that panders to my Selfness, my ego. All I can do is nothing, except to become available to the higher forces and powers within myself.

If I try to take a more positive, active approach towards attaining that goal of unity, I discover something else, something quite different. I discover that I willy-nilly have my focus of attention drawn towards my sense of Selfness, and in so doing I identify with my ego-self. That movement, it seems to me, is a movement toward spiritual entropy and illusion. When I become totally identified with my ego-self I walk like a zombie in the house of the spiritual dead. Yet I must always be aware of my ego-self. Indeed, I cannot avoid that awareness. Detachment, or perhaps non-attachment is a less confusing word, is about breaking that addictive need to be with my ego-self and all its works, and remaining separate. Difficult though that is, it must be possible to achieve that separateness. Why else would the spiritual teachers exhort us to strive for that end?

On the other hand, spiritual enthalpy, the move toward ever greater complexity is a movement toward life and Being. But I do not know what my Higher Self is, that point toward which I must move to expand my consciousness, to increase my spiritual enthalpy. I have only some very vague, shadowy notions derived from my ego-self, but how can the dead judge the value of the living? Even my spiritual studies, for all their value, can be seen as an egoistic indulgence; all the imagery a way of deflecting my attention from my movement toward spiritual enthalpy and growth. Yet not all is lost; there is clearly a movement from above that draws my awareness upwards towards the ground of my Beingness. I must remain alert to counter the attraction of the ego-self, and also to feel the upward attractive currents toward my Higher Self, which may be God, or at least the way towards the experience of God.

Although I often tend to relate my conscious mind to my ego-self, or Selfness, that state of "out-there"- oriented self, in actuality that would seem to be an inappropriate relationship. My ego and consciousness appear to occupy the same field of view, but Selfness is not about consciousness. To be fully, truly aware and conscious I must detach from my ego-self and its illusoriness, for the ego-self is the state of death of awareness even if the ego-self would claim it to be otherwise.

I think the hope that my sense of Beingness can be raised out of the illusory realm of the ego-self and upwards towards the ground of my being, my oft-called Higher Self, lies both in the assertion, and the experience, that I can be raised from death, from the ego-state.  That is the only form of resurrection that has any meaning, or makes any sense, for me.

Tuesday 5 November 2013

A Waking Dream.......of Truth

..........It feels like a dream, yet I do not seem to be asleep. I am out of touch; my senses cannot respond to the physical world around me. I cannot see, hear, small, taste or feel, but I know there are those outside me that are trying to make contact. To them I must seem to be comatose, a human vegetable. A little sadness perhaps? A vestige of outer consciousness; nothing more. A twinge of fear, even; not that kind of fear.
          I am quite alone, beyond the realm of time. Ahead of me there is a great Infinity of Darkness.  It and I are one; we are all that Reality Is; we are Mind.......... 

It is 3 o'clock in the morning; two of-the-clock GMT. I was dreaming, yet awake. There had been a disjoint between experiencing the Infinity of Darkness and the visual "explanation" that followed. I had to get up from my bed and write it all down before I forgot the memory of the experience. I carried my sleepy body through the quiet, darkened house and switched on the computer. So bright. I began to write, or scribble, from the keyboard. This is what I wrote, without editing:-

..........What is "wrong truth"? What is "right truth" come to that? The questions make no sense to me; they are simply what they are. They are Truth. Truth can only be experienced. I don't know how often I can say that before the very words "Truth" and "experience" become gobbledygook, meaningless from continued use.
        It is like flying, a lone passenger in an aeroplane, and looking out through a near-circular window. Outside the window there are clouds, events in time. They pass by my viewing port because they are caught in time; and time passes. I see the passing of temporality, then suddenly the aeroplane seems to halt in mid-air. There is no stumbling, falling or loss of balance, no sense of inertia, because inertia belongs to the physical realm, and I am in a waking dream, puzzling over the meaning of Truth. The aeroplane is stilled, and the outside passing-bys have stopped. I see a view, framed by the window of my consciousness.  I see an aspect of an experience that has movement but no passing; experience which does not pass on, or pass away.  
          In attempting to "see" or understand, rather than experience from beyond my senses, I attempt to straitjacket, in time, the eternal, the essential "is-ness" of Truth. I attempt to limit the vastness and wonder of some non-thing to within the compass of the window-frame, my everyday consciousness of temporality. It is too big for that. To limit Truth to my consciousness is to attempt to ensnare it. When I try to do that, the aeroplane in my imagination moves on again, and I am left only with a memory, a memory of an experience which is ineffable, ineffable, ineffable.
          But just for a few moments released from time, I knew........ Just for a few moments, released from time, I made some form of non-sensing contact with that which is of my very foundations. That is where Truth is experienced, but as if it lies immediately before my eyes. Truth is divine, and for a short time, outside time, I watched.........

And so back to bed. The physical, temporal world still has its pleasures......the shared animal warmth of a cosy bed......and I can sleep in peace, for the morning is yet far distant.

Saturday 2 November 2013

Why Gwynt?

Most of what I write is based on what wells up from the unknown depths of my Self, rather than that which comes out of my planning, controlling intellect. My intellect must be a tool, not my inspiration. Those statements would appear to answer the question expressed in the title of this post, but only in part. Whether my ego-selfness is the controlling factor in why I continue to write here, an ego that somehow appears to drag my deeper/higher Self along with it, or whether my deeper Self urges me to write, and uses my ego as a conducive element, I am uncertain. Perhaps my motives can only be determined from what I gain from my posts.

Since posting, "A Matter of Truth" I have taken the opportunity to stand back and re-read it, as if from a position "once removed." A number of points have arisen from this examination. First, it lacked the feeling and fervour that I felt prior to the actual task of writing; second, only two points really stood out for me, that Truth was a deep experience and that that experience lay not in the words themselves but beyond those words; third, that there is a very good reason for seeing one's own words in print, a reason which I will come to momentarily.

It happens that when one becomes accustomed to mulling over a topic, over a period of time, one's thinking can become sloppy and dishonest. I use the word "dishonest" with care, but without the emotive baggage that usually accompanies that word. One's thoughts may glide over a point without checking it for truthful accuracy. In time that flawed thought may come to guide one's assessment of a truth. Inevitably, that truth itself becomes flawed. However, if I write my thoughts down, I begin a process whereby the correctness of what I write is examined, and as my writing is further examined by an external reader, it places an extra onus on me to get things correct. In short, it is a way of allowing one part of myself to speak to another part of myself, a well-known technique used in counselling.

Thus it is that my primary reason for Gwynt appears to be about discovering, and having discovered not to dilute, my deepest innermost truths. Now my sense of selfness, or ego, is less interested in truth than in its own survival. Therefore that which initiates the search for truth is of a quite different order. Words are necessary for the development of this process, but they, like the ego, must assume their proper role. To worship the words, as so often appears to be the case with sacred writings of one form or another, is nothing short of idolatry.   

It is strange, but when I write from my depths it feels as if a wound is opened. That wound is not closed and healed until another written submission is placed before my readers. This, I feel, is a good enough reason for posting, "Why Gwynt?"