Sunday, January 15, 2012
The Jewish Spiritual Approach to Ego
We all know that ego is one of the fundamental driving forces of human life, along with intellect, mind, emotions, passions and instincts. Ego actually belongs to a different category because it acts independently from the others, and use them to fulfill its agenda. In this sense, ego uses the other aspects of consciousness to satisfy its "desires", what we here usually call material "fantasies" and "illusions". Our Sages define what we call ego in two interchangeable and complementary terms, which are what they call the "animal soul" or nefesh and the "evil inclination" or yetzer ha'rah. In other words, they say that the animal soul is the source of the all potentially negative activity of human consciousness. They compare the animal soul to a wild ox that either can destroy a field or build it, and indicate that its "seat" is the heart. Based on this allegory, some explain that the animal soul has the potential to "good inclination" when one succeeds in directing it for a positive purpose.
This means that, besides being a powerful driving force, ego can help us build or destroy the field that we call life. In Judaism, the personages who chose to conduct their lives based on their personal, "selfish" agenda such as Cain, Ham, Nimrod, Esau, Laban, and Pharaoh among many others are by definition enemies of anyone or anything that questions their "ways", including their own Creator. This antagonistic attitude towards anything good and positive rejects and fights the purpose of God's Love in His Creation, and by extension the goodness of Love's ways and attributes. This negative attitude turns life into something meaningless and vain, resembling more to death. We have said that our human discernment understands that life is the purpose of God's Creation as an emanation of His Love, which must always prevail in spite of the opposition from those who want to make suffering, hatred, hunger, pain, disease and death the rulers in the material world. Love always prevails because as the human manifestation of God's Love is the real source of life and the real driving force in human consciousness. We all know, including those who are against it, that none can live without Love.
In this context we have said (see commentaries on Bereshit and Noach in this blog) that the Flood, Babel's tower, Sodom and Gomorrah, and Egypt during the Exodus, where episodes in our history in which God's Love made prevail real freedom for the sake of Love's ways and attributes over the darkness of ego's idolatry. We must perceive what occurred in those times and places not as destruction but as transitions to make us value, cherish and protect the freedom than only Love can give us. We as individuals and as humankind have gone through more pain than fulfillment in the process of learning what is really important in our lives.
It seems certainly unbelievable that we still live like those in the times of the Flood, when people didn't believe in anything but their ego's illusions and lived to steal from others and kidnap others in order to have their possessions. Almost 70 years ago more than 55 million people died during a war against the threat of totalitarianism as it happened in the times of Babel's tower, when Nimrod was emulated by Hitler and the so called fundamentalist radical Islamic "militants". We still suffer racism, discrimination, xenophobia, cruelty and torture as in Sodom and Gomorrah, not to mention the current sexual depravity and immorality of religious fanatics "marrying" ten year-old girls. And we still see slave trade and forced servitude in many countries, most of them under Islamic rule, and several other forms of slavery among the most conspicuous of all, consumer's society.
The first four portions of the book of Exodus have two main characters which are Moses and Pharaoh. Each represent completely oppose qualities. Pharaoh is the epitome of an egocentric approach to life and the material world, and Moses the highest awareness of God's Love in His Creation. Moses, the most humble of human being who has ever lived and Pharaoh as the most arrogant of all Biblical characters. One whose delusional desires pretend to subjugate and exploit all levels and dimensions of consciousness, and the one whose only mission is to direct them under the guidance of God's Love. One full of himself while the other is full of the awareness of Love's attributes. In this opposite traits we can have an idea of who is who.
Our oral tradition tells us that Moses lived 40 years in Egypt in the palace of the ruler of the most depraved nation of its time, 40 years among idolaters in Median, and 40 years as the man who was the closest to the Creator. These three periods mean that Moses went through several transitions in order to become the chosen redeemer of the children of Israel in Egypt. This teaches us that we all sooner or later go through one stage to the other in the process to achieve complete awareness of the Creator. At one point we get fed up with the futility of living a meaningless life under ego's fantasies and illusions. Then, we start reflecting and meditating on the things that are really relevant in life, as the shepherds do when they tend the sheep. Finally, when we are living free and far from materialistic illusions, we are ready to meet the Divine Presence concealed by such illusions.
Sages say that those who want to be redeemed must prepare for Redemption. In other words, as it always is, the choice is ours. Either Moses or Pharaoh, the Promised Land or Egypt.
From the Book's Foreword
Let's reexamine our ancestral memory, intellect, feelings, emotions and passions. Let's wake them up to our true Essence. Let us engage in the delightful awareness of Love as the Essence of G-d. The way this book is written is to reaffirm and reiterate its purpose, so it presents its message and content in a recurrent way. This is exactly its purpose, to restate the same Truth originally proclaimed by our Holy Scriptures, Prophets and Sages. Our purpose is to firmly enthrone G-d's Love in all dimensions of our consciousness, and by doing it we will fulfill His Promise that He may dwell with us on Earth forever. Let's discover together the hidden message of our ancient Scriptures and Sages. In that journey, let's realize Love as our Divine Essence, what we call in this book the revealed Light of Redemption in the Messianic era.