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..:: Enlightenment XV / The Ego ::..


- Alan Schneider -


              In this final essay in the Enlightenment series we will address the ego from the perspective of its home ground in consciousness – Chakra Three – Manipura, the Power Center of the organism.   Indeed, if any further progress is to be made along the Path of Enlightenment into the higher centers, we must deal effectively with this one

            The physical location of Manipura is correlated with the naval/solar plexus region of the upper abdomen, which, of course, is the original location of the umbilical cord during pregnancy – the literal original source of all “power” for the fetus in the form of nutrients supplied by the mother’s blood, which diffuse across the umbilical membrane into the fetal blood, and an additional “power” in that the same mechanism accounts for the release of fetal metabolic toxins back into the maternal blood stream.   The maternal and fetal blood do not directly mix – the blood proteins of the fetus and mother almost always being incompatibly different, since the genetic input of the father comes into play in this, and many other, fetal traits.   Nonetheless, it is from the mother’s blood that the fetus derives life, growth, and survival while in the womb.    In the neonate, the transition to ingested food from the umbilical support system begins to generate the next stage in Manipura’s potency as the mental focus of gastric digestion is established in the unconscious mind of the newborn baby.   Although this is most certainly a First Chakra (Muladhara) process initially, the beginning of an extended lifelong process of socialization culminating in Manipura consciousness is taking place through the initial social process of the feeding cycle of the infant, and we all know what the infantile response is when this cycle is deviated from!   Yes, the baby has one method of announcing discomfort (of any kind) to the environment, and it is a mighty effective one…  

            As soon as the infant is capable of any measure of comprehension, and probably even before that through pre-conscious behavioral conditioning, the socialization process is begun in earnest for better or for worse, as the case may be.   Naturally, the parents will, even if only inadvertently, convey their social skill set to the child over the years of its upbringing – and wise parents (whether benevolently so or not) will intentionally conduct this transfer of information in detail, eventually producing an adult excelling in social graces of all types, including quite possibly a host of manipulative ones.    When such an enhanced social skill set is combined with the assets of high birth and financial abundance, only truly horrid Karma can disrupt the robust Manipura Chakra that is the combined result, and probably not for long.   As the adage says, “You can’t keep a good man down”, meaning in actual application “a determined social achiever”, and such individuals of either sex know the value of persistence above all other virtues.   Perhaps the additional adage “A winner never quits, and a quitter never wins” does the best job finally of expressing the operant sentiment here.  

            These people seldom have conflicts with their ego awareness, which they probably take so much for granted that they may never give the matter even passing consideration.    Their exclusive life focus tends to be on ever-expanding achievement in all social arenas encountered, and this is where they can become socially problematic from the perspective of Enlightenment.   At some point, morality blurs into amorality, and thence into immorality as the influential bend the all-to-fallible social system to their advantage in the service of the ego.   Once we place possibility ahead of responsibility, the Gates of Hell are opened to a greater or lesser extent, a consequence that the ego is natively ill-equipped to incorporate into its behavioral tool set – designed by evolution as it is to understand only win/lose scenarios.  

   The goal of all Enlightenment practice is the achievement of the much more challenging (but ultimately more rewarding) win/win model of social interaction, wherein the natural tendency of the ego to drive competition forward in human affairs is leavened with substantial amounts of insight and cooperation.   The key term here is insight, even more than cooperation – the ultimate statement of ego-driven cooperation is the team concept, one that has been over-worked to the point of nausea on every level of our society today, not merely athletic events.   In this model, the egos of the team leaders (from politicians to business managers to athletic coaches) is transferred to the consciousness of the players, themselves customarily organized into military-style ranks with military titles.   This system is fundamentally devoid of the insight and wisdom that characterize the good will and sincere mutual support of the genuinely win/win oriented social endeavor.   Although such efforts frequently have organizers, they do not properly have leaders with vested interests in winning at the expense other participants.    There is no identified opposition present, no enemy “other” to be crushed in combat – merely involved social members having varying degrees of vestment and interest.   

            Of course, the residual egos of the participants, which can never really be fully eradicated (short of full blown psychosis), will persist in reemerging into the social consciousness of Manipura, usually in more or less inappropriate ways.    This subject was partially addressed in the earlier essay on social manipulation entitled Games.    It is of interest that, although a social phenomenon, the ego seems to have individual, personal advancement through the ranks of the group as its underlying priority.    It is as if the social environment is integrated into consciousness as the backdrop of personal perception – the two rely on each other for expression, meaning, and validation.    This is the integrated complex of the first three Chakras - Muladhara for physical grounding, Svadisthana for sexual expression, and Manipura for social action.    Kundalini Yoga considers Manipura to be the Fire center of the organism, providing not only the vital fires of digestion, but also the social fire of achievement, and the spiritual fire of charisma and charismatic leadership – the beginning of the Guru level of social interaction.    But this is only the beginning, and if the Kundalini is not successfully directed beyond Manipura into Anahata, the Heart Center of the organism, the result will generally be the advent of the partially Ascended Guru treated at length in The Guru – a dangerously self-motivated individual enslaved to the ego, and oriented toward the exploitation and manipulation of the others in the social sphere.  

            The Buddha was keenly aware of this tendency of the ego to persist in human affairs – generating negative consequences in the process – and attempted to guide his followers away from the leadership phenomenon through his emphasis on humbleness and austere living, and this has tended to be at least partially successful across time, with the defacto Buddhist leadership – The Lamas – generally being at least inclined to be humble, unassuming personages.    But the ego is part of our built-in survival hardware, and cannot be removed without great harm to the organism.   Jung commented on this with his observation that the pattern of ego-driven cultural evolution throughout history demonstrates the emergence of cathartic new philosophies that initially cleanse and revitalize society, then pass into more refractory periods of less dynamic effect, and finally become aged and corrupt themselves,  to be thrust aside by other newly emergent philosophies and social entities.   G.F.W. Hegel was perhaps somewhat more genteel in his postulation of the Dialectic as the primary mechanism of social (and, indeed, of all) change, in which a primary entity – a thesis – is confronted by a secondary entity which it generates reflectively through its own presence – an antithesis – and the two collide, eventually forming a combined higher order of truth – the synthesis.    The synthesis does not require that the old system be completely destroyed, but revamped enough by the interaction of the thesis and antithesis to emerge as a much more functional approach to solving the problem under consideration, whatever its nature might be.  

            If we examine the ego from these perspectives, we may realize that the system of consciousness of which it is a part – the Psyche – exists in an ever-changing dynamic balance which oscillates between states of relatively personal and relatively collective awareness across time, culture, and technology, and all three of these latter environments have effects on that balance.    Viewed from the Hindu perspective on the three, we are currently nearing the end of the Age (or Yuga) of the Goddess Kali, the destroyer God Shiva’s most feared Shakti, or female expression.  From the Jungian/Hegelian perspective, Kali Yuga occurs in response to the progressive deterioration of human spiritual consciousness across the three preceding ages – Satya Yuga (functionally a Golden Age), Treta Yuga, and Dwapara Yuga – as the antithesis to the progressive ego awareness developing in an increasingly materialistic, deluded humanity – the thesis.   Kali’s primary function is the destruction of the ego, which she performs by bringing suffering to the human race until we collectively and personally begin to seek spiritual Truth again, by turning away from delusional materialism and object worship. 

In Hindu cosmology, this process of renewal and deterioration is endless – the current Kali Yuga will be replaced by another Satya Yuga once the human spiritual balance has been reset.    Hinduism is unclear regarding whether the result is a synthesis, as Hegel believed, or a full reset, as did Jung.    The Vedic Seers did not concern themselves with the material, Physical Plane of manifestation or its consequences as did their Western counterparts – all of material existence is portrayed in the Vedas (the primary Hindu spiritual texts) as transitory, illusory, and a barrier to the perception of the ultimate Truth of Consciousness – the Godhead and the Brahman.   For these individuals, the transcendence of worldly Karmic perception to elevated Brahmanic perception through the attainment of Enlightenment was the ultimate goal of existence.    Personally, I believe that there may be at least some element of synthesis across the great expanse of Cosmic time of Hindu cosmology – literally billions of years – and that the net result of the process of renewal is social progress.   This depends, of course, on the presence of an ongoing culture of Seers to maintain the record of the transitions, and convey the option of Enlightenment to those who wish it.    Thus far, this culture has remained more or less intact, but Kali has not finished her onslaught yet!  We can but hope…  

The pyramid of Enlightenment rests on the base of the first three Chakras – the Kundalini energy must be elevated beyond them to attain higher consciousness, but must also be nested in them as a foundational condition in consequence of the physicality of the human expression and Karma.   The Hindu Seers believed that the process of the Kundalini rising up through the sequence of the Chakras was universal to the human experience (if often initially undetected) and also inevitable, as the manifestation of the return to the perception of the ultimate Truth of Consciousness of the Godhead and Brahman.    Essentially, since we are the Brahman – i.e. One with the Divine – and cannot be other than this, we cannot express other than the Brahman – it is a matter of perceiving this fact in daily existence, and behaving accordingly.  The Buddha additionally taught that the best expressions of this behavior were humility, simplicity, and compassion – the triple antidote for egoism and delusional desire action. 

At our current stage of evolutionary development we remain biological, individual, mortal, and interdependent sensory perceivers and moral actors, and this state of things probably is not going to change any time soon.    We have only relatively recently emerged from the wholly animal level of consciousness, and are still subject to the influence of powerful instinctual drives that have little to do with the subtleties of higher perception.   All of this must be trained out of the individual through the practices of spiritual Yoga, rigorous moral discipline, and lifestyle austerities to enable Enlightenment to occur in conscious perception.    Of course, all of this functionally can and does occur in the forms of social failure and traumatic intervention (loss of work, loss of status, loss of mate, loss of health, etc.) naturally in our otherwise obliviously competitive world culture, but we frequently do not even possess the rudimentary understanding required to perceive these as spiritual possibilities – the failed are typically shunned in the world as pariahs and outcasts.   What a tragic waste of human potential this ignorant attitude is, and the absolute obverse of Enlightenment.             

            In many ways, the argument of Enlightenment is one of spiritual freedom opposed to materialistic fascism.   The rigorous, stifling structure of our Post Modern, post-industrial, hyper-digital culture is anything but free – even the winners of this technocracy are trapped in the prison that they have created out of their egoistic greed and ignorance.    The compulsive appeal of fascist ideologies to our deep-seated sense of biological insecurity and personal vulnerability is a powerful opiate that anesthetizes the human consciousness, and few ever awake from this insensate condition to the realization of spiritual Truth – that we are all each other’s brothers and sisters involved in the same search for love, equality, and acceptance under One God of Love and Light known by many names in many traditions throughout history.    It is an absolute, although sadly not obvious, truth that, if we wish to know genuine peace and happiness in life, we must learn to use objects and love each other, not love objects and use each other.  

            The Self creates all conscious perception out of primal Universal Love against the reflective background of the physical forms experienced through the senses – the physical is the mirror of the spiritual.    Perhaps the greatest flaw of the ego as a neurological data processor is that it tends to focus obsessively and acutely on the world as a collection of objects to be manipulated for the attainment of sensory gratification, rather than a dynamic, ever-changing matrix of interrelated processes that are transitory in nature, as is the gratification they offer, with the whole pointing to a unitary, transcendental reality.    Once this distinction is firmly grasped in consciousness, the gateway to Enlightenment, Higher Consciousness, and the Self is opened, and the sleeping human being can awaken to eternal Light, Love, and Truth.   I give you this gift!

                                          - With Love, Alan -

                         (Copyright 2010, by Alan Schneider)


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