Our Ego, Who art Projected in Heaven
I wish I could attribute the following thoughts to their original authors,
but lately my mind has become a sponge and has absorbed a number of ideas,
however I need to give form to this train of thoughts…
We are essentially faceless… we can't see our face or our eyes, and I
think this affects us during those significant development years before we
can hold a mirror and recognize our image.
Ego then defines itself as what it isn't. I'm not this table, nor that
tree, nor that dog. I am not you. Sure, we have likes and preferences and
these lead to labeling ourselves in a better way of identifying ourselves,
but on a fundament level, we think of ourselves as what we aren't.
But this is conflict. In fact, the ego feeds itself with conflicts. The
more confrontations, the more of an identifiable individual one is. This
isn't healthy… its a diet of junk food, but this is the daily bread of
the immature, developing ego. Some egos never mature enough to eat
But the worst attrocity comes when some people contemplate the vastness of
the world and come up with the concept of an even bigger ego… a
super-ego, just like your ego but without limits. Omniscience, omnipotent,
Perhaps this Über-ego doesn't define itself by what it is not and
doesn't feed on aggresive contention, but the words from this ultimate-ego
as reported by its followers seem to think so, as in this poem from Nahum
The Lord is a jealous and avenging God;
The Lord takes vengeance and is filled with wrath.
The Lord takes vengeance on his foes
and maintains his wrath against his enemies.
Jesus wasn't always talking about a "new love" either:
I came not to bring peace to the world, but rather a sword. (Matt 10:34)
But those mine enemies, which would not that I should reign over them,
bring hither, and slay them before me. (Luke 19:27)
And this famous quote from the Quran 9:123:
O you who believe, fight those of the unbelievers near you and let them
see how harsh you can be.
Of course, the books that describe herem, inquisitions, and jihad
also contain quotes on love and peace, but the contradictions are there. No
wonder the "People of the Book" have such a problem with hypocrisy and
intolerance. This seems to be a determining characteristic of the
Judeo-Christian-Islamic culture that formed and frames the West.
We even seem to define "religion" by this concept, and this is one of the
reasons why we have trouble defining Taoism and Buddhism and others not
as religions, but as philosophies. Now I don't want to put too much polish
and gloss over some shiny inconsistencies, but to many Eastern cultures,
the antagonist is the protagonist's own ego… there is no glorified
super-ego that can reveal a dogma of war and inquisition.
I still believe that the West will never mature until the
Judeo-Christian-Islamic cultures start re-reading their scriptures and
looking for the peace and tolerance they may find therein.
[This] reminds me of the "Real Miracles" article by Anna Kilmer in the
Winter 2003 Parabola. She talks about nafs, which is the Arabic word
for the animal soul or the ego. She talks about the ego, and the tricks it
plays on us to keep it strong. So even when we do things where we might
seem to be diminishing the ego, it may in fact be inflating the ego. And I
seem to remember conflict being one of these things.
Just found this quote from the article:
The more frustration and failure we feel, the more powerful the nafs
[ego] becomes. Since the ego has access to the unconscious, its ability to
create frustrations and failures is endless and inventive. Nafs thrives on
anything that prevents the seeker from relaxing into an experience of the
Divine, which is equivalent to destruction of the nafs. As a result, the
nafs prefers to keep us in a state of disorientation, which it easily
choreographs with the help of unconsciousness. Rumi explains:
Something that doesn't exist makes a phantom
Appear in the darkness of a well,
And the phantom itself becomes strong enough,
To throw actual lions into the hole.
Also, this essay has some interesting comments on ego and the power
usurped by religious leaders.
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