Friday, July 12, 2013

seeing ego



After many years of inner work, even including some not inconsiderable moments in which I have had the experience of being free of ego, as it is conventionally understood, I've come gradually to the conclusion that while it's one thing —through Grace alone— to at times be more free of ego, it's another to encounter ego in action, to really see it. To catch it with its pants down, so to speak.
Ego hides itself with such a deft touch that it is, for all practical purposes, invisible. It takes a different level of energy in Being for ego to be actively seen. (See The Reality of Being, pgs. 185 - 186.) Only with this new level of energy, this feeling-energy, do I truly see how utterly contemptuous of others my ego is: not in flagrant ways that reveal themselves easily, but in the subtlest of manners, so much so that they are in plain sight, and yet completely hidden. It reminds me much of alcoholic denial, in which the behavior is shockingly flagrant, yet at the same time, in a horrifying paradox, entirely unseen.

So now I see how I actually am from a depth I never suspected before. I see how I am always like this; I see my lack of compassion, even in the simplest, most intimate moments: an impatience, a refusal to engage in relationship. I see my own inner shame-- Gurdjieff's "organic sense of shame," a perhaps mysterious phrase that can only be understood when it arises in the marrow of my bones.

This is a shocking moment, and little real suffering takes place without it. de Salzmann describes it compellingly: "...if I wish to go further, I need to be shocked, shaken, by seeing the selfish reaction of my ego, defending itself out of fear of being denied. In order to be free from this fear, I have to experience it, to wholly live with everything it entails."

Although it's tempting here to rush to the idea of my fear and how it fundamentally forms me, I'll take a more leisurely and concise approach to her words, because the first few phrases are critical.

To be shocked, shaken, means to be shocked to the core of my Being... to have my living, conscious Being affected. What good, after all, would it do me to be shocked in the automatic, reactive part of my being? That happens every day, and it has no permanent effects. This kind of seeing is only possible once there is something alive enough to feel remorse available; and although this word isn't used in this passage of hers, understanding it from that very organic, inward, and vibrational point of view is critical.

Her phrase, "seeing the selfish reaction of ego" is paramount, because it is this very property of selfishness that sets ego apart. Ego thinks it is itself; it thinks it owns itself. A careful study of Swedenborg will explain why this particular issue is so vital to inner development; and although Gurdjieff and Swedenborg may seem, to some, to be several light years apart, their teachings flow from the same divine source, in which there can be no disagreement. De Salzmann, true to Gurdjieff's teaching, understod all too well that selfishness lies at the heart of hell; and we all unknowingly live with at least one foot firmly planted in it.

There comes a moment in inner work, as De Salzmann explains in this passage, when a new kind of seeing becomes possible. It's at a moment like this that I finally begin to understand that decades of self-observation were necessary in order to even reach a moment where true—or three centered— self observation begins. Until then, it's a game of the intellect, an inner chess board across which the moves invented by my psychology play themselves out.

And here's the problem: I I don't see that the knights, castles, kings and queens in my game of inner work are all imaginary, and that the real parts, the human parts-- which have absolutely no caste or rank-- are so well hidden from me that my ego marches across my inner stage in its myriad, self-invented leading roles with impunity.

I accept the bogus nature of these reflexive roles because there is nothing real in me yet that really senses the emptiness accompanying them.

Seeing ego in this way carries a taste, an inner taste, that won't soon be forgotten, because it takes up residence in a much deeper way.

May your soul be filled with light.

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