So I’ve been reading Reginald Ray’s Touching Enlightenment for the past few weeks, picking it up and putting it down, mulling it over. A day ago I came to a section that led me to consider that there might be a planetary counterpart to the individual ego — something like a meta-ego — that conjures and defends a meta-self, e.g., a nation-state, a dominant culture, a way of life that is otherwise indefensible vis a vis the wisdom of the natural world.
Wandering down that trail is what prompted yesterday’s post, the one about the USA being the ego of the world.
Since you’re not reading the book along with me, I thought I’d offer a little more context for that post. I am playing with a thought here. If you’re into that sort of thing, maybe you can play, too.
Here’s the excerpt that triggered my contemplation:
“What happens to all that denied and rejected experience that our body has already received? (…) As we have seen, we literally freeze the body — which knows and is aware of the totality — so that we don’t have to feel more than the very small portion we can accept. The experience of the body, however, has not been destroyed by our rejection, nor has it somehow disappeared. Rather, it continues to live in the patterns of mental avoidance and physical tension that we have developed around it.
(…) “The experience that our body has taken in but our conscious “self” has been unwilling to receive dwells in a kind of no-man’s land or bardo (“intermediate”) state in our body. There, we do subliminally feel it, primarily as an abiding threat and source of subtle anxiety that runs throughout our life.
(…) “Our ego maintenance, then, represents the ongoing activity of rehearsing and repeating, over and over, the “narrative” of our personal “self” — who I am, who I should be, who I want to be, who I must be, to survive as “me.”
And here’s the rabbit hole I went down:
I started by considering the story told by the dominant culture about the European conquest of the Americas. The framing of it of a “discovery.” The assumption of “destiny” and inevitability. Such a very small portion of the vast experience spanning hundreds of years has been retained as “history.” What happened to the rest of the story?
The rest, to borrow from Ray, continues to live within the dominant culture in what he calls “patterns of avoidance.” In other words, we don’t talk about these rejected aspects in any consistent way that would fold them into an understanding of our true shared history. We in fact actively avoid such enfolding.
But the body (of the Earth) knows. The body retains it all. And as creatures of the Earth, we feel it. Subliminally, viscerally, we know this information is there. Yet we can’t let it in without shattering our sense of meta-self.
Which makes us — as a people, and as a country — defensive, anxious, unable to feel safe anywhere, perceiving threats to our survival everywhere.
Our national identity, our origin stories, our patriotism, nationalism, all of these might be seen as the work of the ego writ large, the meta-ego that must defend itself against the knowledge of the world, all those traumatic experiences that have been forced into hiding by a meta-self that requires constant reinforcement of who it is and why it is and how it must survive. These defenses play themselves out as continued dysfunction and hypocrisy and war and brinkmanship and misogyny and the incessant, almost manic, urge to turn the living planet into dead numbers on a ledger.
Can we begin to heal the meta-ego in the same way we begin to heal the personal ego, by slowly working to relax its stranglehold on our perceptions, our lived experience? And can we do it without demanding that everybody sit on a cushion? Because any solution that requires everybody to do anything is no solution at all.
Does any of this make sense to you? It feels so unwieldy.
I might have more to say about it later. For now I think I’m going to sit with it a little longer.