Beasts from the Id
The artificial problem called “ego” was introduced into the tales of spirituality because the real problem is on one hand easier to understand, on the other hand it’s solvable, and thirdly, it’s not useful for sectarian posturing and manipulation.
The real problem isn’t ego, but identification of “self” with the general situation which, according to the logic of inertia, creates automatic responses – fears, instincts, desires, attachments, animal behavior of both recognizable and obscure kinds – they are all in fact things that a “human animal” does automatically, and “self”, namely atman or asmita, is but a passenger in that vehicle, a witness. This interpretation is not my invention – you can find it in an often quoted yet infrequently understood passage of the Bhagavad-gita:
The Almighty Lord said:
He who despises not the light,
activity and delusion when they are present,
nor desires them when they are not;
Who is indifferent and undisturbed by the gunas.
He, who is firm and calm
in knowledge that only the gunas act,
He, who is equal in both pleasure and pain,
who abides in Self, to whom earth and gold are the same,
who is the same in both the pleasant and the unpleasant,
who has realization, who cares not for praise or admonishment,
Who is the same in both glory and disgrace,
to both friend and foe, who abandoned all longings,
he is said to have gone beyond the gunas.
Of course, this is all wrong. Indifference is not a path towards enlightenment, but towards utter spiritual destitution. Indifference is the thing called tamo-guna by the Gita: the quality of a base and darkened spirit. The people who are the same in both pleasant and unpleasant, who care for neither praise nor admonishment, same in glory and shame, with friend and foe, stone and gold alike, they are not enlightened, although such people do indeed exist. They are the ones in the deepest coma, with heavy brain damage, so extensive that they are unable to process the sensory stimuli and form personal identity.
Usually the commentator of those verses mentions that transcendence is such a vast source of bliss, and the being is so fulfilled and consumed by the said bliss, that in such a state of expanded consciousness it loses all corporal awareness, and all bodily functions are performed automatically and without any spiritual engagement, since such a person’s attention is wholly consumed by the bliss of brahman.
This is true, and such a state indeed exists, but one can only exist in such a way for a very short time, before the bodily functions cease. It is therefore not an instruction in how to live one’s life, but a description of a state that narrowly precedes death, or follows it. The descriptions of the NDE experiences greatly resemble the state described in those verses – he who experienced that, has no desire to return to the physical existence, which is a miserable condition, and from such a perspective anything physical is indeed equally unenviable – gold, rock, it’s all the same, it’s just matter, whose main qualities are limitation of soul and suffering. Likewise, the relationships such as “friend” and “foe” are rarely spiritual in nature, and are mostly caused by the material things, which are perceived as trite and ridiculous delusions once the confines of the body are lifted from the soul. In a similar way the hostilities ceased between Croatian and Serbian prisoners in the Hague tribunal, once they were discarded and surrendered by their respective states in order to gain petty concessions by the hostile “international community”: as much as they were ready to wage war for the sake of their homelands, after being cast aside by those, they recognized the fellow prisoners as their “compatriots”. Human hostilities are therefore often quite relative and conditioned by the material circumstances, or “gunas”.
Of course, hostilities of other sorts also exist, such as when a yogi is hated because of his spiritual power and holiness, the way Krishna was hated by the demons who incessantly made attempts against his life, since early childhood. This kind of hatred belongs to the spiritual, transcendental sphere, where a conflict exists between the beings of light and darkness, unrelated to any material circumstance or transitory condition. He who hates the incarnated God, does so due to his instinctual hatred for the disembodied, transcendental God, where the embodied God serves as a sort of a visible aspect of the invisible object of his hatred, and, unlike the transcendental God, a viable target for his rage. The hatred that the demonic souls feel for God therefore transcends the material sphere, which tells us that things that transcend the matter are not necessarily great, because the worst evils in fact descended into the matter from the transcendental spheres. Satan and the demons are spiritual, not material beings.
This opens a wholly new view of the physical existence. The conventional view is that things taking place here are reducible to that which is consumed by moth and rust: the sum of material hardships and false values which all fade away in death. The contrary position is that some things that take place in the physical plane reflect the spiritual struggle between the cosmic good and cosmic evil, a conflict between the good and evil spiritual beings, those that manifest brahman which is sat-cit-ananda (reality-consciousness-bliss), and those that manifest various ways in which consciousness, truth and happiness can be obscured and twisted. You will now ask “why would a being evolve in the direction of perversion and darkening of the positive qualities”, to which my response will be that both the reason behind this phenomenon, as well as its comprehension, are not important. The fact is that such beings exist, and everybody can bear witness to that fact, since they vastly outnumber the good ones in this world, and are usually more powerful, because this world has fundamental qualities that place it closer to complete evil than to complete goodness, so they are enabled in their evil by the nature of this world. The reason behind the evil nature of such beings is therefore not important. What is important is not to be spiritually defeated by them, and it would also be good if they could all be exterminated, if at all possible. You see, if they continue to be “recycled” in the process of reincarnation, and in each cycle they manage to do some great evil, or at least prevent something good from happening, their cumulative harmfulness is enormous, and is a much bigger deal than the material destructive forces such as floods and earthquakes. One of the favorite pastimes of the evil souls is the creation of deceptive ideologies that increase reliance on the material and reduce participation of transcendence in the physical existence of the beings, essentially removing God from our reality. In such “materialization”, as opposed to spiritualization, the masses of people are conditioned to accept sophistry and “evidence” within the horizon of perception more than they would trust in their own spiritual sense of rightness and goodness. This results in atrocious acts on the massive scale, such as those committed in great wars, where people treat each other in the most savage and bestial manner. Essentially, since the French revolution and the “age of enlightenment”, the earth turned into a red mud from all the blood that was spilled in attempts to rid the world of God. I hope this explains my aversion toward the systems of thought that weaken the faith in the spiritual and utilize something that superficially resembles reason and evidence. In reality, what those do is a sophisticated form of deception, whose disproval is beyond most people’s intellectual ability, similar to the arguments “proving” that we never went to the Moon by using photographic examples that will make a photographer facepalm, but a common person would believe the objection to be valid. Furthermore, when you are being systematically deceived by an Oxford professor who is exceptionally intelligent, educated and trained in trickery of logic, the likelihood of you understanding where you had been deceived, why it was done, and how the arguments can be properly refuted, gravitates toward zero. Such a thing can be dismantled by an expert thinker with a great amount of reading behind him, and with great oratory skills, but such are few. To be sure, the other side of the coin are the evil souls who abuse human affinity for the transcendental in order to deceive them with false religious teachings, which lead them toward spiritual darkness.
It is, therefore, a fact that merely by incarnating here we are exposed to a great number of various spiritual dangers.
The first, fundamental danger originates from the very endarkening nature of the incarnation into the body of an animal that is guided by instincts and senses, with narrowed horizon of perception, limited cognition, and with all memory of existence that preceded the physical incarnation blocked. Also, our “supernatural” means of solving physical problems are blocked.
The second danger originates from other beings, who utilize the aforementioned situation to sell you their “spiritual merchandise”, using “logic” to lead you into a course of action that opposes your long term spiritual interests.
The third danger are one’s own inherent spiritual weaknesses and bad inclinations.
My initial statement, that the artificial problem called “ego” was introduced into the tales of spirituality because the real problem is on one hand easier to understand, on the other hand it’s solvable, and thirdly, that it’s not useful for sectarian posturing and manipulation, can now be explained properly. The real problem is the fact that the experience of physical incarnation performs an enormous limiting pressure on the soul, with potentially fatal consequences if the soul responds badly to the pressure and turns towards evil, thus changing its spiritual vector. An additional problem is that the effects of such transformation are not clearly visible during the physical incarnation, and it is thus possible to be utterly ruined in a spiritual sense, without any apparently bad symptoms. Due to such illusion, which encourages one to underestimate the real effects of the capital spiritual choices, the problem can be obscured until it reaches the point where no help is possible – an analogy can be made with some form of cancer that remains asymptomatic until it reaches the terminal phase, essentially deceiving you into thinking you’re fine until you feel the first symptoms, and at that point your body is so ruined you are left with mere weeks of life expectancy.
We are therefore very far from being able to reduce the problem of human existence to a few trivial sentences, such as “the ego is bad, when you defeat it you will become enlightened”. It’s exactly the opposite: the perceived symptoms of a “strong” ego, meaning the arrogance, posturing, ruthlessness with others, and ability to sacrifice anything in order to achieve your short-sighted goals, are in fact the symptoms of a weak ego, of weak penetration of higher spiritual principles into the animal instincts and physical nature. This supposed “ego” is essentially the instinctual animal nature, what Freud would call “id”. It’s an animal that wants to be physically safe, it wants to reproduce, it wants to dominate, it wants to own, and it wants to be socially reputable and accepted. In absence of spiritualization of those animal instinctual mechanisms, we get what the spiritual people are accustomed to calling the “ego”, meaning the animalistic asshole with a big SUV, half a kilo of golden chain around his neck, smiling a “has money, can buy pussy” smile. The irony is that most “spiritual people” practice the same animalistic mechanisms, only cloaked in different jargon and applied to the sphere of cults and the reputation as is acquired in those circles, where celibacy and vegetarianism exist as an equivalent to an SUV, a Rolex and an expensively decorated female with abundant mammary glands. The symbols of success flaunted by an insecure animal vary according to the value-set of the social circle. When a Hare Krishna monk uses terms that portray him as humble, fallen and devoted to the “supreme personality of godhead”, he’s essentially checking the same boxes that a Brioni suit, a Rolex and an S-class Mercedes check in some other social group.
The paradox of the “spiritual” followings is therefore in the fact that their followers utilize vast amounts of time and effort in order to emulate the results of the process of spiritualization of the animalistic mechanisms, all in order to satisfy those very animalistic mechanisms, that other social groups satisfy by earning money to spend on the posturing trinkets. This kind of “spirituality” is, to paraphrase Von Clausewitz, attainment of animalistic goals by other means, and it is obvious that no true spiritualization is to be found in this sphere, and that such “ego” contains the least proportion of “selfness” or emancipation of the transcendental Self, and the greatest proportion of unconscious instinctual animality, leaving the Self as a helpless, passive passenger and witness to the abominations done in its name.
It therefore follows that the presence of ego, or self in the animal existence, manifests first and foremost in the ability to say “stop”, to stop the “id” and say “not in my name, you won’t”. This distance from one’s own animality is a symptom of a soul that is awakening in the body, a sign of ability to impose one’s authority and control over the flesh. When the soul becomes aware of its own exalted position and dignity, and refuses to humiliate itself with the actions that the animalistic aspect of man would find perfectly acceptable, only then can we speak of spiritualization of the animal, because the soul had imposed its control and influence over the sphere, its force saturated the animal mechanism and subjected it to its own authority.
In practical terms, what does all that mean? It is obvious that the animal mechanisms cannot be blocked because that would result either in bodily death or to serious disruptions in bodily functions. It is obvious that it makes no sense to block breathing, intake of food and water, speech, excretion and sexual functions, but they can be subject to the authority of the soul, which means to refuse to act in animalistic and undignified manner in all that we do. For instance, you can refuse to get piss drunk and lose control of your bodily functions, you can refuse sexual intercourse with the wrong people, refuse to acquire wealth by unethical means that would result in spiritual degradation, and refuse to abandon your ideals under the pressure of uncontrolled animality and instead force your physical existence into compliance with the said ideals. Of course, it’s not all about refusals – one also needs to know how to accept the things that we perceive as attainment of his spiritual goals. There’s an art of accepting the right things, refusing the wrong things and knowing the difference. Emancipation of the soul is sometimes in the direction of refusing, and at other times in the direction of accepting, basically it’s about knowing when to say “no” and when to say “yes”. Simplified ideas along the line of “everything material is dirty and it’s best to block everything, from sex to food (yes, there are people who think it’s unspiritual to eat food and who attempt to live on prana, at least until they starve and die) are in fact a reflection of poor understanding and lack of subtlety in thinking. Complete refusal of everything connected to the physical existence is a symptom of desperate weakness and panic of the soul, caused by the inability to cope with matter, not superior spirituality that dominates the matter. Spiritual emancipation in the matter lies in the direction of the choices whose quality reflects the qualities of the soul. This emancipation of the soul and mastery over the animalistic, “id” aspect of the human existence has a result of formation of a strong, well shaped ego, which is in fact a seed from which an enlightened personality can grow, manifesting the totality of the Divine reality through the physical body, having the animal aspects of its existence not just under control, but transforming them into “jewels”, the aspects of Divine reality, holy objects through which God can be seen, and brahman can be known. That’s why the saints are ways in which we can know God’s nature – it’s because they transformed their physical existence into a path towards God.
The process recommended by the “spirituals” – the fight against the ego – therefore has the only function in posturing, and no worthwhile spiritual goal can be realized in this manner. Everyone who ever attempted it merely dug their heels into the square one of spirituality, accomplishing nothing for decades, all the while falling prey to the very animality they profess to fight. This is why the spiritual followings, both large and small, abound with the most vile and wicked evils.
On the other hand, there is a simple method of control and moderation, of examining one’s actions and desires in the context of our spiritual longings and goals, and a simple criterion of assessing the validity of actions according to whether you feel more or less “as yourself” while doing them, therefore the criterion of magnifying or reducing your own personality, where you keep choosing that which makes you greater, better, freer, more dignified – this method gives results instantly, it utilizes all aspects of your personal reality, common sense, conscience and other spiritual aspects you can grasp and utilize, and it completely immune to sectarianism, posturing and manipulation. If your primary criterion is personal dignity and greatness, and not external validation, you already went past one of the primary mechanisms through which the animal nature subjugates the soul, usually in very insidious and subtle ways. For instance, modesty and humility are often presented as essential qualities of a “spiritual seeker”, and this is in fact an animalistic social mechanism through which an individual submits to the community and its judgment, allowing others to determine his value and position in the community, which is unfailingly met with a positive response by the community, accompanied by the energetic exchanges in the area of the anahata cakra. We are therefore dealing with an insidious pack-animal social mechanism which is not commonly recognized as animalistic, while on the other hand sexuality is seen as purely animalistic, while in reality it has a potential of being an exceptionally valuable and powerful instrument of spiritual connection and exchange, more related to pure spirituality than any form of religious ceremony.