Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Exodus: The Journey from Ego to Transcendental Consciousness

"A traveler in ancient Greece had lost his way and, seeking to find it, asked directions of a man by the roadside who turned out to be Socrates. "How can I reach Mt. Olympus?" asked the traveler. To this Socrates is said to have replied, "Just make every step you take go in that direction."
[Eric Butterworth, "Discover the Power Within You," page 15.]
"Egypt and the Pharoah are very real," observed Chassidic rabbi, Tzi Freeman. "Either you are doing Exodus, or you are dong slavery." Exodus, or the journey to Mt. Olympus, are, of course, metaphors for the moment-by-moment quest for enlightenment and freedom from ego-consciousness. Enlightenment, moksha, personal liberation, salvation - however you wish to describe that rarefied spiritual state of higher consciousness - is an all-or-nothing deal.

As spiritual teacher Andrew Cohen has pointed out, enlightenment and ego-consciousness are two parallel tracks, they never intersect. One either experiences the quietude of the enlightened state of Being (what Cohen calls "the Authentic Self"), or one experiences the raucous inner narrative of the small, conditioned "self," or "ego."

"It is probably true," Butterworth observed, "that every man intuitively knows that there is a highway of right living and that he is never completely satisfied with himself or his world until he finds the road to his own "Mt. Olympus." And it may be that this distinction leads to the indefinable yearning and hunger and thirst that causes the excesses that plague mankind. He feels the inner urge but he usually moves in the wrong direction to fill it."

Indeed, as the Apostle Paul acknowledged in his letter to the Romans:
"I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do. And if I do what I do not want to do, I agree that the law is good. As it is, it is no longer I myself who do it, but it is sin living in me. For I know that good itself does not dwell in me, that is, in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. For I do not do the good I want to do, but the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing."
[Romans 7:15-19]
The great Swiss psychologist, Carl Jung, recognized this spiritual need and acknowledged how, if misdirected, it can lead the unsuspecting man or woman deeper into the bondage of the ego. In a letter to Bill Wilson, the co-founder of Alcoholics Anonymous, he observed:
"I am strongly convinced that the evil principle prevailing in this world leads the unrecognized spiritual need into perdition, if it is not counteracted either by real religious insight or by the protective wall of human community. An ordinary man, not protected by an action from above and isolated in society, cannot resist the power of evil, which is called very aptly the Devil. But the use of such words arouses so many mistakes that one can only keep aloof from them as much as possible."
However, in his pithy, but all-important work, "The Undiscovered Self," in which he strongly critiques the development of the modern State, Jung convincingly makes the case that even society, as we have come to know it, is not in itself sufficient to meet mankind's hidden spiritual needs. In fact, it is just the opposite.
"Just as man, as a social being, cannot in the long run exist without a tie to the community," Jung observes, "so the individual will never find the real justification for his existence, and his own spiritual and moral autonomy, anywhere except in an extramundane principle capable of relativizing the overpowering influence of external factors."

"The individual who is not anchored in God," Jung points out, "can offer no resistance on his own resources to the physical and moral blandishments of the world."

"For this," Jung notes, "he needs the inner, transcendent experience which alone can protect him from the otherwise inevitable submersion in the mass. Merely intellectual or even moral insight into the stultification and moral irresponsibility of the mass man is a negative recognition only and amounts to not much more than a wavering on the road to the atomization of the individual. It lacks the driving force of religious conviction, since it is merely rational."
[Jung, "The Undiscovered Self," page 34.]
How then is the individual to achieve such an inner, transcendent experience? Clearly, as Jung suggests, it cannot be achieved through rational thought. What is needed first, perhaps, is the knowledge that such a transcendent experience is available to all, and then after that a conscious decision to make each of his or her steps go towards the Mt. Olympus of higher, non-egoic consciousness.

1 comment:

The Fog Horn said...

A new perspective for you....