The Road To becoming a Warrior Part 6

The word ego in Latin means: I myself. Freud used the terms id ego and superego eventually, but he began with the words: "It", "I" and "the I above the I".

In Freud’s world the it is a set of unconscious needs or trends. We now often call it the subconscious where feelings and instinct come from. The IT wants nothing but pleasure according to Freud. The ego is the self. It is organized and realistic. It is influenced and conditioned by the outside world and the Id or in newer terms: genetic predisposition. Its components include memory, self identity, the consciousness etc.

The super ego is our conscience. Freud said it was what makes us want to follow social and moral rules. His main hypothesis was that these parts of self are all in conflict. The id wanting instant gratification, the ego wanting to rationalise and control/satisfy the id, and the super ego denying the id pleasure for the greater good of the individual and of course society.

A lot of people these days just talk about the subconscious mind the conscious mind and the ego. The ego is seen as evil containing things like selfishness, greed, unfeeling for others, always wanting to be right, etc.

This is not how the Hindus or Buddhists saw ego before the 1920s, as these terms were not around back then. But I think the idea remains the same. There are parts of the self that are in conflict and this causes suffering.

The Existentialists focused on the subjective including the meaning of life or lack of it. It is the individual’s responsibility to find meaning to their lives because there really is no intrinsic meaning. But that will be difficult because they have so many existential obstacles to get around. Some say Buddha taught existentialism in his own way.

Friedrich Nietzsche brought it to a new level when he invented the term and belief of Perspectivism. It is a forerunner to today’s observer driven reality. He said there is no objective truth. Of course the problem with such a statement is that if it is not meant to be a statement of objective fact, then it is gibberish. The statement negates itself if it is a statement of object fact. Such a philosophy denies that there is an underlying reality we can get to or that there is anything remotely akin to truth or object fact.

In a sense a lot of Hinduism tells us the same thing. Life is god’s dream, and we the individuals just an illusion. We are the source and living is a dream or in some cases a nightmare.

But this is an extreme view. Zen teaches us to cut through duality. But these ideas just concentrate on the subjective and ignore the objective. There is no duality to cut through because the opposite has been eliminated. “What is the sound of one hand clapping?” It is but the sound of half a reality.

The truth is always somewhere between the opposites, and inclusive of both. It is neither and it is both. Why throw away one half of reality? Because it is easier than combining them as one. Objective truth seems hard to come by. Yet it isn’t. It is simple. Objective truth is relative to a group of conditions existing and remaining the same, unchanged.

I like using the example of water from a tap. If I got water the last time I turned on the tap, I will always get water from that tap the next time I try it, unless something has changed in the system. This is a simple formula. If the next time I try to I do not get water I know something has changed. If nothing has changed I would still get water. So then I must determine what has changed so I can fix it and get water again.

The difficulty is that while there is an underlying reality, we interpret our experiences and observations according to our conditioning both internal or predisposed and external or environmental. This is what has stirred up so much controversy about what is most influential, nature or nurture? While whatever the real number is, it is somewhere between the two opposites.

So what is the I or self or ego? From the physics standpoint we are just a specific configuration of atoms or energy/matter. We are a conglomeration or colony of cells. If we could see ourselves from the perspective of the cell, what would the human look like? Each cell has a life of its own. It has a birth a life where in it functions and inter relates and communicates, and it eventually dies.

What would we look like from the perspective of the atomic world? I think it would be difficult to tell where the human begins and where the outside ends.

And each cell of our body is changed over time. We are not the same individual we were when we were born, or when we were 7 or when we were 14 or 21. We are entirely different configurations of energy/matter. We lose energy all the time and replenish our energy with food.

So what is this I? A human has several parts. The senses give us a sense of individualism. They tie us up and separate us from the outside world. Memory gives us continuity as it records all that has happened to the individual system through all its incarnations. It provides us with a personal history, recognition of things, concepts, people, etc.

But what finishes and in fact begins the human I is need. We all have them and without them we would not bat an eyelash. We would do nothing at all were it not for stimulus in the form of need. We will not scratch unless we itch. And the resulting feeling of scratching is pleasurable because a need has been fulfilled.

So what are we? Are we an illusion? Zen would tell us yes and no. We are both an illusion and not an illusion at the same time, though not in the same way. We are an illusion in that we are not one sold never changing “I”. We are not an illusion in that we are a system made of systems within systems as is all else. We are part of the totality, but we are not in and of ourselves the totality. Our minds and the I are emergent properties of energy/matter. An I or ego is made up of physical parts, namely the brain and nervous system and senses.

Is there a soul? That I leave to speculation as there is no evidence that there is. All the magic of enlightenment happens in the brain and throughout the body. I am unconcerned whether there is a soul or not. It is an irrelevant question. The souls is not the consciousness or it would be there in dreamless sleep or under aesthetic. Without a physical memory there is no “I”.

The brain is an amazing thing. All animals have one and even a bacteria has to have a rudimentary sense of self in order to survive and a rudimentary awareness just so it does not keep banging it’s head on the same obstacle. In evolutionary terms the brain was developed to be the central processing and control center for the society of cells and processes of the body.

Like a government that believes it is more important than the people it serves, it has come to think of itself as the be all and end all of existence. It has created for itself gods and souls and all manner of ideas that will help it fulfil its new prime directive: that it must survive at all costs even when the body dies. U. G told us about a physical biological enlightenment in which we reverse that situation. He called it the natural man.

For all intents and purposes we must act as if this is it, and when the lights go out it is over. No one gets out of here alive.

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6 comments

Spirit Whisperer profile image

Spirit Whisperer 5 years ago from Isle of Man

I think the words and labels used by people like Freud have also served to add to the illusion that we can think up an explanation for who we are. Splitting us up into id, ego and super ego is juts an idea and I find it difficult to see how any idea can do anything more than describe an idea. Of course we need words and labels to communicate our ideas but in the act of describing an idea we use other ideas and in effect everything we describe is built on layers of ideas. Somewhere along the line it seems we desire meaning to make sense of our existence perhaps and label some ideas as true and undeniable facts. People talk about things that they accept as facts when only a while ago they were just ideas. It seems to be a human need to have facts to cling to in order to make sense of our existence.

If I see a tap running because I turned it on I too would accept that something must have changed if the water stops coming out of it. However, on another level I am laughing at the idea my brain has created in my head because I know the tap and the running water don't really have any meaning other than the meaning I have given them inside my head. I know there is something there and I also know that what exists outside of my head can only be perceived through my senses and never truly known. The truth lies outside of our narrow perception. I believe we can only create meaning from the shadows we imagine we see dancing on the canvas I call God.

Thank you again Slarty for another great read.


Slarty O'Brian profile image

Slarty O'Brian 5 years ago from Canada Author

SW.

Yet you yourself advocate removal of all ego. What do you mean by that? According to you the label is just an idea or illusion.

I prefer to think of it as a model. The model is not reality but it represents a model of a chain of cause and effect. You know this is how we do it in science with things we can not know exactly. We have many models of what is happening on the quantum level. Each fits the observations we make and explains them. But we know they are all just models and we know not all of them can be correct. Perhaps none are. But the model is of use to us.

It helps us visualize the process. Like visualizing Buddha in meditation.

You also say, and I think this to be most important: "I know there is something there and I also know that what exists outside of my head can only be perceived through my senses and never truly known. The truth lies outside of our narrow perception."

This is true. But you are admitting that you think there has to be an underlying reality. That is my point. There is an underlying reality. What it looks like is not knowable in the usual way. But we can build models of it that match the observations we make.

It is irrelevant that we can't know what the underlying reality is, because we are made of it. We are another layer of it. And as in heaven, so on earth.

Religions see this and tell us about great deeds done in heaven which filter down to us or are played out again on earth.

This a metaphor or model for what is really going on. The human behaves like the atom because it is just a configuration of atoms. We can do nothing else. Nature is god, the atom is god, the source is nature. So as the source, so the human.

We live, we suffer. That is undeniable. We have needs we have to fulfill or we die. We leave this existence and this "I".

It is irrelevant that we can not see the man behind the curtain pulling the stings to create the illusion. We live this illusion and we had better do it the best we can or we suffer. So in this realm, those things are facts and they are real.

They also mimic heaven, or the source, but in a different way. It is like energy/matter are the same thing in different form. It is like liquid water, ice and water vapor are all the same thing in different form. They are all H2O.

This is not an illusion because it is one layer of reality. But it is an illusion because it is only one layer of reality. Yet from it we can see the other layers in universal patterns of existence and behavior.

Yes, it is all shadows dancing on the canvas of nature. There is nothing but nature.


Spirit Whisperer profile image

Spirit Whisperer 5 years ago from Isle of Man

Hi Slarty

I do not advocate removal of ego but rather to see through it or realise it. We imagine we are it, and identify with it and believe the illusion it creates. I advocate not identifying with illusion. There is a difference. Once that is achieved ego is like a mask you can put on or take off and it is also something you can change at will.

Yes, I can see how you can view ideas as models to try to understand or make sense of the world. But model is still a creation of the mind and just another idea which gets replaced once a better one comes to mind.

Visualization is a terrific way of focussing the mind in order to create what you want be it something material, emotional or material. I found awareness of the breath more suited me to stilling the mind and stll use the practice but not the way I have done in the past. I now tend to use my body to meditate and I do it more regulary through the day while I participate in my daily activities. Even as I type this I can feel all my toes and the sensations from the top of my head to my toes. When I first started I was barely aware that I had any toes between the big and small toe. The practice has the effect of pulling me out of my head so I limit the time I spend solely in my head.

I totally agree with you about there being an underlying reality and when you say "But we can build models of it that match the observations we make." I agree but for me this seems to be a pointless exercise because models are just ideas and observations are also subjective so neither the measurer (ego) nor the instruments to measure (senses) are capable of doing anything other that create more of the same illusion.

I think the following words that you use express the idea beautifully; "It is irrelevant that we can't know what the underlying reality is, because we are made of it. We are another layer of it. And as in heaven, so on earth."

In fact that is quite spectacularly expressed and resonates well within me.

I love the way you think and your ideas are brilliantly expressed. But here and there some of what you say does not resonate and I intend to do some introspection to figure out why and get back to you.

Thank you.


Slarty O'Brian profile image

Slarty O'Brian 5 years ago from Canada Author

"I do not advocate removal of ego but rather to see through it or realise it. We imagine we are it, and identify with it and believe the illusion it creates. I advocate not identifying with illusion. There is a difference. Once that is achieved ego is like a mask you can put on or take off and it is also something you can change at will."

Then we are in full agreement on that.

"But model is still a creation of the mind and just another idea which gets replaced once a better one comes to mind."

Bu we are not alone. The only way to find out what is going on in the outside reality is to build models that change as our information changes, We can eventually rule certain ones out completely and add to others.

It is a puzzle with the pieces in plain view yet inaccessible in the usual ways. Others build on your model and tear parts of it down. It is the process that is interesting. And we do benefit from it in this layer with added skills and knowledge.

Yes there are other layers. But don't you think we should understand this one as well as try to understand the underlying ones? I am saying that the more information we have about this layer, the more information we have about the others even if we can't yet know how fully.

This is why lack of belief is important. We can't take the models as fact. But we can gather facts from the models. I know you disagree about what defines a fact. But again, if they are only facts on this layer that is irrelevant. We live in this layer and their facts here. If there weren't, nothing we would do would make sense.

Yet we can build indoor plumbing. We can harness electricity. Facts are just order. They are patterns of cause and effect in this layer at least and not just because we want them to be. Wish as we might we can not break the patterns or laws of cause and effect. We have to work within them. As much as we may wish it otherwise, once our head leaves our body it is over. Wishes only work id they are within the boundaries of what is possible. And what is possible has very real boundaries. If not, as I said in another comment, then nothing we do or say would help anyone. It would be gibberish. We couldn't possibly even exist without order.

And that order is what we seek to know and recognize and understand. That's the Crux of the Biscuit, to quote Frank Zappa.

We'll work this all out. ;)


Spirit Whisperer profile image

Spirit Whisperer 5 years ago from Isle of Man

Yes, I have no doubt we will find a way through this, it just that I have experienced things that just don't fit the model you describe when you say: "Wishes only work id they are within the boundaries of what is possible. And what is possible has very real boundaries."

I wonder also if your use of the word "id" here instead of "if" is some kind of subconscious expression like a Freudian slip.

I like the way you keep pounding at the door and you know what the good book says about knocking and asking!


Slarty O'Brian profile image

Slarty O'Brian 5 years ago from Canada Author

Perhaps you thought the boundary was closer than it was? I don't know what experiences you speak of so I can't say much about that.

No Freudian slip. Sloppy typing. The d and f are side by side and I have thick clumsy fingers. lol...

Lots of good books say that. It must be a universal pattern. ;)

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