May 8th, 2009
|06:06 pm - Thoughts on Spirituality and the Ego|
I recommend that anyone with an interest in spirituality read this essay: In Defense of the Ego. I completely agree with the perspective presented, which is likely no surprise to anyone who knows me well. I find both the world-denying aspect of most traditional spiritual paths (both "Eastern" and "Western"), I especially object to the common concept that the physical world is primarily a source of suffering, and to the idea that "acceptance" is good, and that being attached to one's ego &/or will is in some way indicative of spiritual inferiority. I've occasionally described myself as somewhat of an anti-Taoist[], in that I'm an inveterate tinkerer who has absolutely no interest in deferred gratification that is deferred more than a month or two, and who believes in shaping my world to how I want it. In any case, I highly recommend the article, it's a welcome antidote to the newage focus on detachment and other (IMHO) foolishness.
[] I'm speaking of the popular Western image of philosophical Taosism (which I find to be bloodless and dull), as opposed to the length and fascinating Taoist magical tradition
This is one of the main reasons why I cannot abide darling-of the-moment Eckhardt Tolle.
His latest book is actually what got me to write the above-linked article.
So with you.
I mean, my will, my lust my desire--this informs and fuels my connection, my magic. Why would I want to cut my balls off, so to speak, denying my power or the joy of embodiment, the physical--you know, life, that reason that I am incarnate to begin with? :)
It took a short lesson from Thorn Coyle at her book signing, a moment of drawing down the godself, to really impress upon me the power of my self, and some of the most powerful words in magic: I am.
One thing I like about Feri tools and Thorn's work and books, is the embracing and aligning of all parts--ego, godself, and animal. With all of these things, we can be open to life and connection.
Hunger, desire, drive--these things, properly channeled, are awesome.
Much love to you,
Edited at 2009-05-09 01:56 am (UTC)
my will, my lust my desire--this informs and fuels my connection, my magic.
Yes! Well said.
Duhkha isn't really suffering and the atman isn't really the ego. They're identified with these things in Western interpretations of Buddhism because that's how they were translated 100+ years ago. That essay is very representative of the fallout of that usage.
To understand these ideas you have to understand their underpinnings, which aren't ethical, spiritual or religious, but are founded in ontological and epistemological philosophy. Duhkha, for example, isn't fundamentally rooted in material existence or even unhappiness, but describes a reflexive inaccurate perception of the world. This inaccuracy is fundamental and is requires for things like language and analytical thinking. Atman is a reflexive mental construction of oneself as a non-dependent essential thing. It doesn't really refer to being arrogant or proud or having any particular mental state, and is functional inasmuch as it provides the basis for self identity.
In any event, the sort of false definition and objection thing in this essay is the same mistake employed by Starhawk in the 80s, and by Catholic missionaries since about forever.
I was merely responding to the ways in which the terms are used in popular literature on the subject matter. I am well aware that the genuine article is quite another story. Unfortunately, that's not what is presented to the American reading public.
This does not read the same as saying "Eastern mysticism in general" as you do in the article.
Perhaps I should have been a bit more clear on that point. Still, I stand by the overall stance of my article.
You definitely know more than I - Buddhism is something that I haven't particularly studied. I have studied Taoism a bit (I know vastly more about China than India, mostly because I know next to nothing about India) and so I can definitely say that I have no use for philosophical Taoism, but I have no real idea how close Buddhist ideas are to Taoist ones.
Of course, while I can't find any good links (although I did find one amusing article about Taoism by some Larouch nutcase), I've read more than one article about how philosophical Taoism is in many ways a construct of Western philosophers and China scholars and in reality the separation between "popular" Taoist magic, exorcism, and all of that (to me) niftiness and the (allegedly) scholarly philosophical Taoism is far less than is presented in Western literature on Taoism.
I've read a fair amount about Taoism, both in the form of magicians and eccentrics talking about their encounters with Taoist magic and also in the form of various scholarly books about philosophical Taoism - these books usually have nothing in common with one another, including the way they depict Taoism. I find the first sorts of books to be fairly interesting. However, IMHO, the second sort of books depict a philosophy that is dull and largely worthless.
I've seen very similar ideas about philosphical Taoism (which is what most westerners mean when they talk or write about Taoism) from both newage fools and highly respected scholars. I'm uncertain if essentially no one in the West understands Taoism in any useful fashion or if at it's base (like essentially every other pre-20th century religion or philosphy) I find it drastically outmoded and only suitable for people unlucky enough to be either exceptionally poor or living in pre-industrial conditions.
I'd be interested to see your recommendations, but I doubt that there will be much about Taoist philosophy that I haven't seen before.
Yeah, been there, tried that, got a lot of good experience, but the bliss of egolessness is pretty boring. I think some people hook into the idea and think egolessness is the whole point.
I like Alan Watt's idea, that someone who can at once recognize their oneness with the universe and still play at being whatever they are at the moment is a pretty kickin' kind of person. The point is to not take it too SERIOUSLY, which can make the game of life unfun.
"the idea that "acceptance" is good, and that being attached to one's ego &/or will is in some way indicative of spiritual inferiority."
Is that a New Age version of the slogans "Let go and let God" and "Trust and obey, for there's no other way, to be happy in Jesus"? It sounds to me like it is.
Thanks for this essay. I've read too many books, even magickal ones, that endorse the whole attachment to one's will being evil.
It has sometimes been a struggle for me not to believe that following my own desires, rather than those of a group leader, are evil. I have to slap down the urge to purge myself of ideas that do not conform to some perceived groupthink several times a day.
I can appreciate your stance re: Ego. The Ego has is an important construct, but it is neither the evil monstrosity that so many seem to pretend it is, anymore than it is to be the focus, like so many not trained in esoteric matters seem to default to. IMHO the key is knowing the point of "Balance," or more accurately, "Equilibrium" in all things.
I mentally tag this seeming dichotomy betwixt "Ego-consciousness" and "Ego-lessness" as the difference between Magick/Change and Mysticism/Acceptance. They both have their time, place, and uses. The real key is to know when one is appropriate and when the other is more appropriate.