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Ego is the source of most of the ills in our society. It is the thing to dissolve as you become more spiritual. It is something to be noticed, sought out, fought, and destroyed. Ego is bad. Or is it? Ego is largely misunderstood in our cult-ure. As Eastern Spiritual traditions are imported into the west with greater and greater rapidity, it is misunderstood even further. Rather than looking at it and understanding it for what it is, it is further collapsed, fused, and maligned into one mass of experience generally labeled “it-is-bad”. Those who judge it as “bad” are missing the point of transcending attachment through craving and desire, which they pre-suppose is generated by ego, as they are creating aversion, the darker sibling of craving and attachment. They are engaging in the same dynamic. Ignorance and fear are largely at play here. All of this is due to a lack of understanding and poverty of distinctions with respect to the nature of this phenomenon we are labeling “ego”. And all of this is also due to a lack of wisdom about the nature of evolution and this game that we, as conscious beings, find ourselves in, which I am terming Personal Evolution. To find more clarity, we need to turn to integrative thinking. Ego is not a static “thing”. It is not fixed. Like all manifestations of consciousness it is dynamic. It is fluid. And, contrary to popular belief and common misconception, it is ever evolving—as consciousness can do nothing else. Let us look at one model of the evolution of ego so that we can better and more fully understand its nature, its complexities, and from what position it is most misunderstood and from what level of development it is most oft misperceived. As a preface to the model that is about to be presented here, think as these “levels” less as “steps” and more like waves or spirals. In other words, they are not discreet (in the mathematical sense) levels. They are more flexible and fluid than that. And, unfortunately, due to the current linguistic limitations, we are working with “levels”. Pre-rational This is the most fundamental of all levels of the ego. At this level, one often engages in moral pronouncements of or about the Self. There is also a larger percentage of self-to-other comparisons “I did X and I am therefore a good person. In fact I am better than you”, or on the opposite end of the egotistical phenomenon: “I failed at Y so I am therefore a bad person, and in fact, compared to you (who succeeded at Y) I am worthless.” Whatever the case, with pre-rational ego present, there is judgment in the pejorative sense, that amounts to something being “good” or “bad” bringing with it a disproportionate (from a rational and certainly from a trans-rational perceptual standpoint) amount of emotional “charge”. At this level of development, there is self-congratulation in the extreme—hubris and arrogance. There is also self-flagellation—self-hate, self-doubt, and in the simplest terms—“beating one’s Self up”. Rational Rational is the “middle ground” or “half way” point in this model. At this level in the development—or evolution—of the ego, one begins to be focused on competence and results. For instance, “I am more competent than you at X, therefore I can produce better results than you”, or “I am less competent at Y than you and therefore you can produce better results than I.” Moral pronouncements begin to drop away in the higher realms of rational ego. One may feel positive or elated about one’s accomplishments; one may also feel deflated or negative about one’s failures, but there is no “I am therefore a “good” or “bad” person as a resultant meaning or extrapolation about the Self. One other benefit provided by this level of development is that one begins to engage in self-to-self comparisons through time, rather than static, two dimensional self-to-other comparisons, which are inherently a slippery slope. Why are they a slippery slope? No matter what the context, no matter what your level of skill or development, there can (and arguably IS) someone more developed or skilled, or less developed and less skilled. Ergo, these comparisons are foolhardy and easily deconstructed. Given that this level is the Rational level, one can easily see the inappropriateness of these comparisons with ease. The ability to self reflect and self examine becomes easier and achievement becomes important Trans-rational This level is where the juice is. Where the verve is, in the artistic sense. This is where the artistry of the Self (and in fact often art, poetry, and the highest expressions of the Self begin to emerge. This is also where the ego begins to “dissolve”. I put “dissolve” in quotes in this context because it only appears to be the dissolution of ego. It is the expansion of ego. It is the expansive Self. At the highest levels of trans-rational states and development, one becomes god by becoming one with all. One with everything and nothing. This is already and always happening, but it is only at a trans-rational level of development and awareness that one becomes cognizant of this reality. At this level of development, one becomes fully-self reflexive in that one is able to fully self examine. One’s own mental processes (meta-cognition) becomes paramount as the evolution of Self come into full awareness. One begins to develop the qualities of the Buddha and the Christ mind—love, compassion, wisdom, radical and accurate awareness of self, of the world around you, and of Other, although the desire to “change” or “blame” other is not present. The desire to assist others in evolving is. The desire to serve others and be a resource for others is. While some posit that further distinguishing and putting more and more linguistic “separation” into our experience creates separation and rails against the very I.D.E.A. of attaining non-dual levels of reality, again, while the Buddha mind points at the moon they are focused on his finger, which is doing the pointing, but not the reality and the experience of what he is pointing to. They are, in our popular vernacular, missing the forest for the trees. Why? Because non-duality contains duality. Everythingness and Nothingness contains all. How could it be otherwise? Part of understanding developmental models is understanding that a being can only truly appreciate a level they have already developed through, beyond, and transcended. A child can not understand the wisdom of their parents until they are old enough to see the truth and positive intention in the direction given by the parents. Someone driven by and mired in their pre-rational emotions can not understand (and will often state it is impossible) having emotional mastery at the trans-rational level. Someone who still feels violence or the law of the jungle is the best way to handle disputes cannot see the value in a codified rule of law, where disputes are handled by an objective party. And the list goes on. At the same time, once someone transcends a certain level of development, they can see and understand both the benefits and limitations of each level. They can begin to think in integrative terms: differentiate, distinguish, transcend, and include. Now, imagine how someone who has a pre-rational understanding of ego or is stuck at the pre-rational level of ego development experiences a rational ego. They will think this person is arrogant when they are not. Why? Because given the givens, and the same scenario of achievement, the pre=rational ego minded individual would be arrogant. They cannot see how someone else could not, not understanding more developed levels. And often, they will judge the rational person as bad to safeguard their own fragile sense of self. And so on. I could give many more examples (and I imagine I will in the future) and for the sake of brevity, I will not. Every day we are faced with the choice to live and make choices one of two ways—consciously or unconsciously. The choice is entirely yours, mine, ours, humanity’s. What will you choose?
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