4. Ego and the End

I was surprised through spring 2012 while preparing ‘Spirituality’ and ‘Divine Child’ that a novel theme arose to do with strengthening my Solar Plexus. It became clear in meditation and was reinforced by Steiner’s emphasis on the role of ego development in the course of spiritual evolution. My work had been Heart-centred for years. What could this new direction portend? Basically, it warranted new awareness of the ego’s creative potential. Pursuing this required going beyond an intellectual appreciation of Steiner’s insight to an existential realisation of what lay behind it.

Usually in spiritual discourse, the ego is negatively viewed. Even in ‘postmodern, post-mythic’ strains inspired by Ken Wilber’s Integral Theory, it tends to be seen as a reactive formation – a self-encapsulating structure of consciousness that is primarily invested in protecting its established patterns and self-image. This makes it resistant to change and thus anti-evolutionary, particularly with regard to the kind of changes implied by the difference between going to a lecture and ‘ascending’ to Heaven.

These points are well made but the fact remains that no structure is primarily reactive. It must first be a creative manifestation of whatever evolutionary impulse it expresses.  Ego arises in the course of evolution as a manifestation of Divine Will (or whatever name we attribute to its motivating intelligence). Steiner affirms this powerfully and so, peculiarly, does Freud.

For Freud, ego is the means by which consciousness accesses ‘secondary process’ reality, i.e. achieves a fundamental orientation in relation to something that is (known as) other than itself, beyond a primary narcissistic sphere governed by blind instinct. In this ‘primary process’ there is no distinction between the undifferentiated self and anything else. Only with the advent of a secondary process are we opened to worlds of physical and social reality. The emergent ego manages our relationships with both.

Continued channelling of pre-personal energies of instinct into the secondary process of ego development is a basic evolutionary mechanism that supports the establishment of ever more complex psychological and socio-political forms of human organisation. Hence ego is fundamentally creative. It doesn’t function without cost however, for we must continually repress instinctual urges of our animal past if the constructed order of our personal and social worlds is not to be regressively overwhelmed at any point.

To paraphrase Freud, civilization engenders discontent: systemic conflict that plays out in our psyches and also in displaced forms as aggression between individuals and groups. Being systemic, such conflict is unavoidable. A creature of his time and place, Freud believed ego to be the pinnacle of evolutionary unfolding and a poison chalice which was at once the gift and curse of human psychology. All this fits well with the psychology of the first three chakras as identified within Eastern yogic traditions (5).

Nothing of this was known to Western psychology until one of Jung’s clients baffled him with dream reflections of a kundalini rising. The resulting encounter with Eastern spiritual literature convinced him of its validity, including its intimations of an order of psycho-spiritual reality that transcended ego awareness. Familiarity with the Grail legend had already alerted Jung to an imminent opening of the Heart centre, even in Western peoples, but he was unable to reconcile the traditions effectively beyond nominating the ‘Self’ as the psychological vessel of a greater consciousness.

Steiner’s vastly more expansive frame allows us to complete this picture. He notes how ego (‘I’) development was necessary in the course of evolution so that humans could become separate from the spiritual realms and discover powers of mastery in relation to the natural world. Only when this has been accomplished is it possible for us to realign freely with the spiritual worlds out of choice. We can’t have freedom to reconnect unless our links have first been severed. For consciousness to choose freely to rejoin the trajectory of Spirit is the purpose of all evolution. Accounts which present it as a mechanical playing out miss the point of the whole exercise.

Without imposing any particular spiritual gloss, civilisations needed to be built, wars and famines needed to occur, and ecological catastrophes needed to be noted in order that we could acknowledge our unprecedented power among species and the urgent necessity of our taking responsibility for it. This is an initiative of the Consciousness Soul, which lasts from 1413 to 3573. We are now in a decisive phase of its mission to rehabilitate the Intellectual Soul (747-1413) by filling the alienated, objectified world which the latter has created with compassion and love.

This accords beautifully with awakening of the Heart centre as foreseen by Jung and chakra theory. I have experienced this in myself over 20 years and the process now feels close to complete. It has been supported by the 7th Day of the Planetary wave as well as the entirety of the 8th and (especially) the 9th. Thus I know that the completion of 9 Underworlds described by the Mayan calendar also has a positive bearing on our species-wide movement towards an intuitive, Heart-centred mode of knowing and experiencing. This is our alternative to addictive attachment to continuing lop-sided accelerative tendencies.

Later stages of the calendar also foreground and support the dimension of freedom that Steiner makes central. I have argued this at length already (2) and will not repeat except to say that our capacity for freedom now rests on 9 completed Underworlds. These provide a structural underpinning required for Consciousness in time to awaken to itself as such while simultaneously recollecting its origins beyond time. Again, this can’t be a matter of intellectual awareness (lecture) only. A full existential realisation  of Heaven is required.

If the emergent process of ‘ego’ is fundamentally creative it must remain so at core, despite the obvious fact that it (we) can be traumatised into stasis and reactivity. Fear and wounding are the problem here, not ‘ego’ per se. It is possible for ego to become courageous and flexible, and even to open beyond itself towards realisation of a greater life that it pledges to serve. In the end, ‘ego’ is just a word that evokes the conditioned structure within which our experience of personal (self) consciousness arises. It is the primary developmental vehicle for human powers of reflection and choice and also mediates our decisions to stick, flee, fight or leap in faith.

Ego can be transformed by positive choices. As this happens, the Solar Plexus opens, allowing passage of spiritual energies (kundalini) up to Heart. ‘Birthing’ includes a condensed, dramatised version of this process – with one important difference. While the eastern yogic traditions derive from an early stage of humanity’s awakening and were motivated by a yearning to rejoin Source, our modern calling is to realise Source Consciousness on Earth and in time by reconciling our runaway yang creativity with the Constant. (The Divine Child is born out of creative inter-play between Divine Masculine and Divine Feminine aspects of Reality.)

It is now understood how consciousness comes to equate itself in human experience with conditioned identities moulded by social formation and cognitive-emotional history. We think of ourselves in terms first assigned by others. This makes us self-conscious. Experience becomes reflective and reflexive as our thoughts loop back on themselves, from adolescent angst to metaphysical speculation. Wounding arrests this process, causing it to become reactive and stuck but that is not its first nature, despite batteries of defence mechanisms (strategies, patterns) that spring up to keep it as is.

Evolution continues to call and with it inducements to open past our wounds. We are faced then with a choice: to stay put or step out in pursuit of greater life, following trails of inspiration back to full reconnection with the spiritual worlds. This is the core condition of freedom that Steiner describes. We are ‘free’ to stay stuck as long as we cling to forms of conditioned illusion. Ego is a specialisation of Consciousness that arises to secure attainment of this spiritually pivotal state. Its initial outer-directedness transforms the undifferentiated (archaic, oceanic) field that was present before.

Introducing reflections from an outside so created back into the internal environment of embodied consciousness opens an inner territory of soul. This is first articulated in terms of myth but becomes more insulated as an atmosphere of dualistic opposition builds, culminating in the rational scientific stance of objectivity which, although it tells a particular story about connectedness, also prevents its realisation. This makes our subjective worlds tighter and more reflexive, leading to a postmodern frenzy that opens us to embracing Gebser’s aperspectival or integral consciousness structure (which knows countless viewpoints are available but is not bound by any of them), beyond the rational ego’s attachment to its scientifically lawful perspective (6).

When a modern ego opens, transcending the multi-layered inter-textual structure of its discursive origins, something wonderful happens. The consciousness that emerges from this trans-personal break is very different than the pre-personal (pre-egoic) form that was there before. It realises connectedness keenly due to the sense of separation it has endured. Also, its power of reflective-reflexive awareness becomes an attribute of Consciousness at large, so that Consciousness knows itself in a more explicated way than before. This is a gift of the Consciousness Soul but it cannot be delivered unless ego is prepared to open past its stuck, arrested state to greater life.

(5) See ‘Towards a Psychological Articulation of the Chakra System’ under ‘ReSource’.

(6) See ‘The Spirituality of 2012’, Section 4.

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