Surviving Ego Death
Shiva is in deep sleep, just as the individual is asleep, unaware of ultimate truth – union. The ego, the serpent power within us, lays coiled up locked in self-identification with the body and physicality. But, as expressed in an ancient Kemetic proverb: “I have climbed the ladder, having turned myself around.” The serpent is to be redirected to seeking union with Shiva... to use the powerfully passionate energy of emotion and desire to wake the sleeping god within.
Like Ausar (Osiris), lord of the underworld/duat, Shiva dreams the world but needs the complimentary use of feminine force in order to act within it. As long as the serpent/ego is directed to illusory self-interest, the brilliance of the spirit remains untapped. A primary step for the spiritual aspirant is to die to those self-delusions and be reborn from the ashes. The question then is... how?
I believe it is important to develop a relationship and language with one's spirits, guides, ancestors – inner teachers. With sincerity and humility they will ultimately lead you. Forces may appear in your dreams as totems of your ancestral lineage. Or, you may see or learn from forces that are completely foreign to you which then, in turn, inspires a search for understanding. Study then feeds your personal bank of symbolic meaning. Your guides will use these symbols and others to communicate with you. You'll begin to identify your fears and exorcise them. You'll learn which aspect of the Divine you need to work with in order to progress.
During the phase of ego recognition and dissolution you may find yourself feeling depressed, angry, anxious or outright hopeless. Your dreams could, for example, show you being killed, trapped or chased. In waking life, arguments, fights and broken relationships may become prevalent. When I began to experience similar occurrences I was comforted to learn that “suffering with the spirits” is common to aspirants within various traditions. In Vodoun it is the “trial by ordeal” which sloughs off the avatsoto ame (ego and pride). In New Age or Pagan circles it is the “dark night of the soul.” In Tamil streams Kali Ma is said to attack and destroy the worthy aspirant. Furthermore, the Bhagavatam conveys that Radha Krishna take away everything from devotees (wealth, romance, etc.) so they may realize the Divine as sole refuge.
Transformation through ego death is no picnic. Love of the Divine will steady you; it will be the only thing you can cling to while your world is violently whirling. How do you establish love as a mooring? By following Goddess' example. Auset (Isis) chanted words of power over Ausar's corpse and erect phallus. Kali's necklace of severed heads represent the primordial sounds – mantras which form the substratum of manifest reality. Oshun of Ifa and Erzulie Freda of Haitian Vodou love singing, dance and fine offerings. Strive to perpetuate their joy and your selfish interests will gradually fade. But try not to give in to fear when Goddess' “dark” aspect makes itself known to you. Kali, Nebethet, Oya... by any name, you will be tested. You have to be unafraid of the dark. You must be ready to be ripped to shreds and sewn back together again.
I've never known Love
all is loss here
disillusion and misconception
Divine Love is lasting, overwhelming – blissful
I have never known Love
all my striving, all past reflection
security in fond memory – an apparition
never real and not abiding
all at once I feel the weight of your absence..
yet your concurrent presence
as the glimmer in all illusions
you tease me, you prod me, you call me to awake
I answer and cry out and scream your names
awaiting your grace your presence – one word
my tormentor my lover my god
timelessness has bound me
causality has led me adrift
the only thing that can save me
is mystic union – your sacred kiss...
--Sekayi Khita Hetep
Ego death is the concentrated mourning of empty forms. The realization that you have never truly known love, peace or happiness... that it was always fleeting as you gave chase to it in various guises. It is an immense sorrow at the realization of your emptiness... your separation from what is true... Divine Love.
“How long can i beg and bargain for the things of this world while Love is waiting?” – Rumi
I try to get it from you but you won't give it to me, I get angry. But you can't, you don't have it. Like trying to draw blood from a rock. My partner, my career, my desires... all void. Divine Love is the life blood and God/dess is the source. Wail, moan, protest then resign yourself to the truth. You'll find yourself deeply sad because you'll look around and not be able to see this Love. You'll feel alone, abandoned and hopeless.
So how do you face and interact with the newly realized false forms in your life? Without egoistic expectation of fulfillment from any of them. You are walking through a graveyard. Learn not to be afraid and not to lose faith. When afraid we may sometimes sing to ourselves... likewise, chanting the divine name manifests divinity. With such aid, you will come through your dark night of ego death. When you surrender your will and replace ego with devotional love... a light will come to lead you to your Beloved.
Hetep on your path.
-Sekayi Khita Hetep
- Selections from the Husia by Maulana Karenga
- Mami Wata by Mama Zogbe
- Aghora by Robert Svoboda
- Pert em Heru by Muata Ashby
- Universalist Radha Krishnaism by Steve Bohlert
- Jambaya by Luisah Teish