Monday, May 27, 2013
Ego: Friend or Foe?
Some modern teachers refer to "The Ego" as if it were the enemy of spiritual or psychological growth. They tell us we have to fight the ego, subdue it and get rid of it in order to really know God, or to develop psychologically. But I ask, "What if the 'ego' is a kind of seed which contains the whole self?" The word "ego" is simply the Greek word for "I," referring to one's sense of conscious identity at any given moment. It seems to me that it is more accurate to say that this "I" is both a great ally and a formidable foe: an ally because "I" am a wondrously unique individual made in the image of divinity, exercising at least some free will and able to personally experience the Good; a foe because some part of the "I" mightily resists the experiences of the Good. The French poet Baudelaire put it like this: "There are in every person, at every hour, two simultaneous postulations, one towards God, the other towards Satan." Or, Ram Dass: "You carry heaven and hell within you." Robert Louis Stevenson captured this ubiquitous human experience in his novel, Dr. Jekyl and Mr. Hyde. Both sides of the "I" are necessary, because as Carl Jung noted, the "I" develops "from...collisions with the outer world and the inner." Just as a solid seed pod keeps the vital contents secure, it simultaneously provides the obstacle to be overcome when it is time for the contents to escape into the soil for new growth.
This I-seed or original “I-pod” of individual self awareness utilizes every internal and external experience to grow into the mature Human. This process is beautifully illustrated in the Greek Eros/Psyche myth as Psyche moves from self obsession to immortal divinity, and in the biblical journey of Adam from the nascent image of God to Christ as the matured image of God. Both stories begin with nascent "egos" which develop into divine enhumanment. Those who think that his/her "I" (ego) is secondary to “Spirit”, or a superfluous hindrance to real spirituality are in for a difficult and frustrating psycho-spiritual journey. The chick in the egg (eggo) might as well minimize or reject the encumbering and annoying shell which encompasses her emerging "enchickenment". The ego, seed pod and shell all simultaneously protect and suffocate the contents, providing both life and death on the way to new life.
The “I” contains all that each of us is, and all that each of us is becoming. Our "I-pod" provides that unique selfish identity and resistant “personality” against which the emerging Self must push in order to gain strength and maturity. For theists, I suggest that our "I" is divinity in seed form. Those wits who describe the acronym of E.G.O. as "Edging God Out" would be better served by describing E.G.O. as "Edging God Outward". Treat your "I" like Kenny Roger's treats his cards in The Gamber: "You got to know when to hold 'em, know when to fold 'em, Know when to walk away and know when to run." The "I" serves us well, until "I" doesn't.