Egology III

In our two previous posts, Egology I and Egology II, we expressed in detail the nature of ego and introduced the two types of ego, Transcendental  Ego and Empirical Ego, which are constantly at play in our everyday experience of the world. The former is concealed while the latter, itself created by the former, is exposed to natural consciousness. In this post we introduce the modalities of the empirical ego.

The empirical ego has two fundamental modes and it can, and actually does, switch back and forth between these modes. We can view these modes as the two principal modes of vibration of the empirical ego. The same way that a string of specific length and tension can vibrate only in certain frequencies, the empirical ego too can vibrate only in either of the two principal modes or sometimes in a mix of the two. These principal modes of the empirical ego are its Proactive mode and Reactive mode. We refrain from using the terms proactive ego and reactive ego because proactivity and reactivity are not the nature of any ego but only the two possible modes of behavior, and hence only attributes, for the empirical ego. We remember that the main function of the empirical ego, and any ego for that matter, is constitution of a narrative, context-creation, or meaning-bestowal. Thus, the essential difference between the proactive mode and the reactive mode comes from the essential difference between the structure of the narratives associated with each. We can naturally associate the proactive mode and the reactive mode of the empirical ego with epic and tragic literary genres respectively.

The empirical ego in its proactive mode tells a narrative in which it is a proactive character in the story. In the proactive mode the ego perceives itself and the surrounding world, which is in fact the underlying narrative it tells itself, as a place of opportunities that can elevate him/her; it situates itself in a context in which it is the hero, dominating circumstances and using the obstacles to its own advantage. In other words, this mode of ego is optimistic and not fearful; it doesn’t find the world a hostile and tragic environment. Thus, ego in its proactive mode tells the narrative of goals and achievements rather than failures and negativity or others’ judgments about it. As a result, the ego in proactive mode is less inclined to feel insecure compared to its reactive mode and only because it doesn’t spend time focusing on them. Thus, the proactive mode is more generous; he/she tends toward nobility and courage; his/her life is an epic story.

The empirical ego in its reactive mode tells a narrative in which it is a reactive character in the story. In the reactive mode the ego is always engaged in self-defense, and hence naturally offensive at times because offense is only the outward mode of defense. The reason for this behavior of ego in its reactive mode is that it perceives itself and the world, which is in fact only a story it tells itself, as a hostile and tragic environment. Ego in the reactive mode cannot rise above situations and instead always perceives itself in a losing battle, and as a natural consequence it manifests itself as a defensive type of person. Ego in this mode is focused not on goals and achievements but on flaws and failures only, on the obstacles that keep him from achieving a goal rather than on strategies to overcome them, and on how others perceive and think of him/her.

The ego in its reactive mode tends to feel more insecure, not so much because it fundamentally lacks something but simply because it focuses only on the negative aspects of every phenomenon which are equally present also for the ego in its proactive mode though this ego chooses to respond differently. feeling more insecure, the ego in reactive mode becomes more timid and often offensive and dangerous in unfavorable circumstances. These are the typical characteristics of passive, cynical, or sarcastic personalities who are always either on defense or in the attack mode. An ego in the reactive mode doesn’t tend toward courage, nobility, and generosity which are the main characteristics of ego in its proactive mode. You can imagine how destructive the ego in reactive mode can become when it gains power over others, be it as a husband or wife, or as a leader of a nation. The life of an ego always in reactive mode is a tragic story of loss and failure, not so much because it fails but simply because the narrative it tells itself is focused only on losses and failures, and in general on the negative aspects of the narrative. From an objective point of view, the world is almost equally favorable/unfavorable to the empirical ego, the human person; it is the reaction of the empirical ego to these circumstances that constitutes its proactive or reactive mode. Which mode is adopted is always only a matter of perspective and not of a fixed and rigid reality as if out there.

We must note some important points: As mentioned above the proactive and reactive modes of the ego are only the modes of behavior or vibrations of the empirical ego and not its nature. Thus, any empirical ego usually switches back and forth between these modes and not always in one or another mode: An empirical ego, a particular human person, may adopt the proactive mode or attitude in one circumstance and the reactive attitude in another. However, sometimes and for some people one mode is more dominant than the other, the cause of this domination being the intensity of a person’s identification with the proactive or reactive roles in his/her narrative.

It is not that certain people are losers by nature and certain people are winners by nature; in their essence all are the same thing, an empirical ego, the rest being only the narratives it chooses to tell itself, whether of triumph or of failure. All empirical egos are constitutions/creations of the transcendental ego which is one in all; the empirical ego which tells our narrative is itself a narrative being told by the transcendental ego, our life being a narrative within a larger narrative. It is as a result of identification with this mode or the other mode of the empirical ego that our narratives appear to be either epic or tragic. It is always a fundamental choice of the empirical ego to move from the reactive mode to the proactive mode or vice versa. In fact, it is this fundamental independence from these modes, our primordial freedom, that makes change and radical transformations possible.

The empirical ego can also vibrate in the proactive and the reactive modes simultaneously which makes it somewhat neutral or indifferent to circumstances, for when the reactive mode and the proactive mode superimpose they tend to cancel one another into a relatively flat line which constitutes a kind of passivity or detachment from the ups and downs of a narrative. This mixed, or superimposed, mode of the empirical ego has a spiritual function which deserves attention in separation post. In Egology IV, the last of these series, I go into the details of this neutral mode of the empirical ego and its spiritual functions and aims.

Egology II

In a previous post, Egology I, we discussed the nature of the ego as such and the different types of egos at play in our natural, everyday experience of the world. I emphasize that by ego we didn’t mean selfishness or any of its negative connotations, which are only a few possibilities for the ego along with its other possibilities such as kindness and generosity, etc. By ego we mean in general “I” at the center of all our experiences, the center of the acts of consciousness, namely the subject of experience as such. We mentioned that the primary function of any ego is to create a situation around itself, to provide a narrative in which it is also the main character: Ego tells the story, and as in every story there is a set and setting in which the story unfolds. The largest setting in which the ego defines itself and narrates its story is the experienced world. World is the background of ego’s narrative, and hence it is also part of that narrative since every narrative is essentially tied to the setting in which it unfolds. World is the largest context, and ego is the story teller that gives meaning to this context and makes it dynamic. We note that by world here is meant the largest context, that is, the horizon of all actual and possible experiences. So, this world-horizon is not the physical universe of sciences; instead, science and its world-picture, along with religions and philosophies and their stories, are themselves narratives within this larger world-horizon which is always in the background of all experiences and which the ego can choose to accept to reject. Gods, angles and demons, creation and destruction, heaven and hell, etc. are all narratives played against this indefinite world-horizon. Thus, we use the sense of the world similar to its sense when we say “a baby was born into this world.”

We also saw that there are different types of egos at play against the world-background: The Empirical Ego and the Transcendental Ego. The empirical ego is the ego that we experience and are constantly aware of; it is our human self which for us has a character and a personality, an identity which is tied to a definite past and a possible future; it is the ego that lives our everyday life. The transcendental ego is the ego, or act-center, that constitutes (creates) and supports the empirical ego but is itself a concealed agent; it is the ego that provides the existence and experiences of the empirical ego. As empirical egos immersed in world-experience we are not aware of the transcendental ego which is constantly operative in the background and hence constituting us and the world of our experiences. The same way that the empirical ego constitutes a narrative for itself as a person-in-the-world attached to an identity, the transcendental ego constitutes the empirical ego and its world-experiences with which the empirical ego identifies itself.

While the empirical ego experiences itself as an object in the world, the transcendental ego is not a part of the world and instead stands outside it; the world is itself a narrative constituted, or created, by the transcendental ego. Here is an analogy: When you are telling a story, say to your child, your voice is that which keeps the story together and hence meaningful; it is the support of that narrative. Your voice itself is not part of the story, nor is it something entirely detached from the story: The story in its every moment depends on your voice; its existence is derived from the existence of your voice. The moment you stop reading the story it collapses into oblivion. In other words, your voice is something outside the story and yet tied to it, imparting existence and reality to the story. In a similar fashion, the transcendental ego is not part of the phenomenal world, and is not something human, and yet the existence of this world and the empirical ego depends on the continuous operation of the transcendental ego who is the agent constituting the phenomenon of world-horizon and the empirical ego itself as another phenomenon within it.

It is the transcendental ego that is constantly constituting the empirical ego and its experiences of the world, while the empirical ego takes this world for granted and situates itself in various roles and identities within this world-horizon, roles like a male or female, a lawyer or a beggar, successful or failed, etc. Transcendental ego constitutes all our experiences as phenomena within world-horizon while the empirical ego identifies itself with these phenomena and creates narratives that strengthen this identification. Thus, the world we experience is a mere phenomenon constituted by the transcendental ego and has no independent existence; like a narrative that borrows its existence and reality from the existence and reality of the narrator, our world too owns its existence and apparent reality to the transcendental ego which within the religious context is known as God or Ishvara.

There is a another level without which the constitutions of the transcendental ego, which are the experiences of the empirical ego, would not be known at all, without which there would not be an awareness of any experience whatsoever. This deeper level is called the Witness: it is associated with pure light; it is the light that shines on the constitutions of the transcendental ego, and hence makes the experiences of the empirical ego possible. It is in virtue of the light of the Witness that we know anything at all. Thus, the source of all knowledge is the Witness which itself is not involved in any constitution or creation at all; it is pure and perfect, and though it shines its light on the constitutions of the transcendental ego, it itself is unaffected by all things and also cannot become the object of experience, for it is itself that which makes all experience possible and thus must always lie behind all experiences which are by nature objectifications of the transcendental ego. To be more precise, the Witness cannot be objectified. Therefore, we can interpret the empirical ego and its world-experiences as the creation, and the transcendental ego as God the creator, and the Witness as the Godhead and the Ground of Being the first and the highest manifestation of which is the God the creator, that is, the transcendental ego.

If we happen to be religious and believers in God, the above descriptions must help us to understand the true nature of our relationship with God: God is not an agent that created the world at some point in time and then sat back entirely outside and detached from the world, watching and judging us as if we had our own wills and choices. In reality, God is at the center of our Being, and we are in our essence one with Him. Every moment of existence, and every state of the world, is actively held together by God. Thus, God is constantly sustaining the world, creating it each moment anew and afresh and according to the fundamental orientation of our empirical egos; He does so from within and not from without. Every moment of our being depends on Him and His light. In truth, there is no moment that God is not within us and not aware of everything inside and outside us; all our knowings are in fact His. It is His knowing that runs through all acts of consciousness, a knowing by which we know the contents of the world and of our minds, even the most private thoughts and feelings. Our true relation to God is that of a character in a narrated story to the voice of the story teller.

In another post, Egology III, I will continue this discussion with focus on the fundamental orientations, or fundamental vibrational modes, of the empirical ego.

Your World is Your Face

What Do We Really Look Like?

Well, we may think we look like this:

Portrait of a man in a tee shirt smiling to camera
What I think I look like

But really, we always look like this:

Close-up Of A Person Chatting On Social Website In Office. Photographer owns copyright for images on screen
What I really look like

Don’t be too concerned with what you look like. Your face is not what you look like; it is what others look like when they’re looking at you. You on the other hand, you look like whatever you’re looking at. You wanna look beautiful, then look at beautiful things.

Your world is your face

The Many Faces of The I

Truth and our fundamental relation to it creeps into our everyday language whether we want it or not. This is so because in a manner of speaking we are the truth, though we may be oblivious to this truth. Let us take a look at the way we express our actions in the present tense, exactly where we always are:

I say “I am thinking,” “I am imagining,” “I am remembering,” “I am going,” etc. If we pay attention to the structure of these expressions we see that they can be viewed and meant from a different perspective:

I am the thinking; I am the imagining; I am the remembering; I am the going. etc.

I am the thinking because I have become that thinking, being the thinker and the thought at once.

I am the imagining because the “I” has transformed itself into the form of imagination.

I am the remembering because I am transformed to the memory.

That is why at each moment I am at liberty to withdraw myself from these regions, and upon my withdrawal, the withdrawing of my attention, those regions too disappear: The imagining and the remembering cease once I stop being the imagining and the remembering. It is never the case that the imagination is still there whether or not I am imagining anything.

In all these cases the formless “I” which is never grasped in itself has become the perceptible form; I perceive the “I” now as thought and then as imagination, etc. because I can at will flow into the space of perception or imagination, hence making, i.e. projecting, forms that appear to have become the objects of knowledge. In all these instances, it is the “I” that projects itself into this or that form. This ability to project oneself into forms has been known as the creative power of Gods, i.e. their Maya. The “I” at the center of human experience has this power due to its being constituted in the image of God, hence inheriting the power of projection from the Lord, and the human form itself is nothing but a projection of the “I.” With projection comes concealment, the two being the sides of the same coin. It is the projections of the “I” into this or that form that conceals the essential identity of the “I,” i.e. Atman, with its principle, i.e. Brahman. This Supreme Identity is realized immediately and with absolute self-evidence the moment the “I” ceases to project itself, the end of projection being coincident with the end of the “I” as empirical ego.

The I which is the abode of infinity can project itself into various regions of beings: It can project itself into the space of perception and become the perceivable object; I then say “I am seeing the desk” which is really “I am the seeing of the desk,” for I have become the seeing of the desk. Projecting itself into the space of perception the “I” produces the appearance of a perceived world; it produces the perceivable objects from its own depths. We must only add that this becoming is only apparent from the empirical point of view, while from the metaphysical, i.e. transcendental, point of view there is no becoming, for all things exist in their potential form in the simultaneity of the eternal present.

The objects of sight are embedded within the seeing; it is not as if seeing just bumps into objects in the world. The objects are always already constituted within the ceaseless flow of seeing before we make the abstraction that they exists outside our seeing. The objects of sight are made of seeing and not of atoms. The objects of touch are made of touching, those of thought are made of thinking, etc.

The “I” can also project itself into the space of thought and appear to us as the thinking. The space of thought is a region of Being whose beings, objects, have the form “thought.” When we are thinking we never have to inspect a thought to make sure if it is a thought and not a perception or a smell, etc. The thoughtfulness of a thought is self-evident, and its self-evidence comes from the self-evidence of my “I” to myself.

We may suspect the reality of the objects of consciousness but can never suspect the reality of the acts of consciousness. When we are seeing we cannot doubt that we are seeing, though we may doubt the reality of what is seen. You may think that the seen object before you is a fantasy, an imagination, a dream, etc., but when you are seeing you cannot doubt that you are involved in the act of seeing. The reason that acts of consciousness are indubitable is that they are transformations, i.e. projections, of the indubitable “I.” We cannot doubt an act of consciousness because it enjoys the same absolute certainty and self-evidence as the “I.” It is my own “I” that in each and every case appears as perception, imagination, etc.

The world is constituted in and through the acts of consciousness. it is always in consciousness that we know the world, whether as laymen or as scientists. Even the idea that “the world exists independently of consciousness” is itself an idea produced and held in place by an act of consciousness, in this case by the act of thinking and abstracting and theorizing. Everywhere we look, whether with the eye of everyday commonsense or with the eye of modern science, we are in fact looking at perceptions, thoughts, abstractions, experimentation, etc. all of them being acts of consciousness performed within the manifold of conscious experience out of which we can never step, and this because there is no out of experience, this idea being itself a production of consciousness and hence already inside experience. And these are nothing but the transformed “I.”

When you fear you are fearing only yourself, for nothing exists but the contents of your consciousness.

When you are looking at the world know that you are looking at your own infinitude appearing to you as this boundless world. Everywhere you look you are seeing yourself, for you are the seeing itself, the seer itself, and the seen itself. And know that when you seek you are indeed seeking yourself. To be found is to stop seeking.

Time & Consciousness

The object that I see in front of me I see as something in space, but my seeing of it is not something in space. What is seen is seen to be an spatial entity; however, seeing itself is not something spatial. We tend to treat objects of the world as independently existing entities as if our consciousness could stumble upon them by chance!

Consciousness cannot make as its object something that is not already prefigured in it. I see the world through my perceptions but I do not see my perception through any intermediary mechanism. It is due to the self-evident and immediate givenness of perception that I come to know the world and know that I know it. That I perceive an object is because the object is something constituted within the temporal flow of perception. Even the spatiality of an object is something itself first perceived and only later spoken of. In this sense, the world and its objects are essentially temporal extensions before they are spatial.

To put it more precisely, world and its object are made of time, for it is in and through time that they appear within the field of perception. To exist means to be, to keep being in time, to endure in time. From here we can see more clearly how world is constituted in consciousness and not outside it. Time and being in time have no meaning and existence apart from consciousness, for the passage of time is something meaningful only in and through experience. Time is what we experience and not something we perceive out there in the world. Only a consciousness that subsists the flow of time can experience the passage of time.

Time is nothing but the ecstasy of consciousness, that is consciousness experiencing itself as conditioned and partitioned. It is this partitioned and fragmented consciousness that appears to us as diverse experiencing subjects. In reality there is only one subject, but this subject cannot experience itself unless it objectifies itself into the manifold of its own infinite possibilities. Each person is one possibility for the being of one and the same consciousness.

Consciousness undergoes the same self-objectification into multitudes in the case of dream experience: In a dream one and the same consciousness, that of the dreaming subject, projects itself into a world of diverse objects and experiencing subjects. All the conscious agents that appear in our dreams are the possibilities inherent within the dreaming consciousness. It belongs to the nature of consciousness to project itself outwardly in such a way that it appears to itself as something fragmented and embedded inside a world as if it were only a part of that world. In our dream we appear as a person among others inside an infinitely extended world of objects, but all persons and objects are one and the same consciousness, only appearing to itself as if it were outside itself. Consciousness inside itself is the dreamless sleep, but consciousness outside itself is the world. It is in this sense that I see the world as the ecstasy of consciousness.

We Are a Black-hole

There is this thing called the information paradox in black-holes. The idea is this: From conservation laws we know that information can never be lost, created or destroyed; it may only be transformed or moved around. This is of course an alternative way of presenting the energy conservation law. But when it comes to black-holes this laws seems to be violated: Black-holes are by definition structures that suck in information in such a way that we cannot retrieve it. Once information passes the event horizon of a black-hole it cannot be accessed at all, for nothing escapes the event horizon, even light, hence the name black-hole.

Scientists have been trying to figure out what happens to the information that falls into a black-hole. If we say that information is destroyed, then the conservation laws are violated. If we say that it is not destroyed, then what happens to that information?!

Here was my morning fantasy: The information which is falling into the black-hole is converted into consciousness. After all, information is really meaningless without a consciousness that can be informed. Thus, the information is not lost; instead, it produces conscious experience. In other words, black-holes are conscious; they perceive the universe since the light from all over the place is falling into them. But of course since our modern science doesn’t recognize consciousness as an independent reality as it cannot be measured with a stick, naturally scientists call it a paradox.

A little more of reflection on our own consciousness shows that we experience the world around us as if we were at the center absorbing the light reaching us from all over the universe, hence producing this world-experience that we have. We perceive the world as something extended beyond us into infinity, and this is precisely how a black-hole would experience the light falling into it. The idea is that we are a black-hole who happens to have a human experience. This cosmos is that experience. There is only one black-hole, a singularity, that has come to believe it exploded in a big bang, but that too is just an experience. The singularity that we are never exploded. We have not yet happened. In reality nothing is ever happening.

But now enough with the fantasy.

I must add, considering the internal dynamics of a black-hole, the gravitation tension and torsion, and the stretched space-time in it, for a person who is standing at the singularity it will appear to him/her that everything is accelerating away from him. He/she will experience a rapid expansion of the universe around him which is really nothing but the light that falls into the black-hole. This expansion is experienced from inside the black-hole whether or not the outside universe is actually expanding! Now, this is not fantasy, and yet we believe our universe is expanding.

We Are That

Everyone is afraid of the waterfall except water itself. What is there to be afraid of when it is into water that water falls. If we fear it is because we are that very fear itself. Fear is made of us. How can something that is not made of consciousness become an object of consciousness!? The hand can touch and know that it is touching only because it is in contact with its own kind, with matter. A hand cannot touch a sound or a smell because neither the sound nor the smell are material; neither is accessible to tactile apprehension. The known must be made of the knower. If we are conscious of the world, conscious of the various modes of cognition, it is because this whole world is of the nature of consciousness.

If a rose is an object of seeing, then seeing is itself an object of pure consciousness. We know objects through seeing, hearing, touching, imagining and remembering. But we know seeing, hearing, touching, imagining and remembering directly and not through anything else. The world is not really made of objects; it is made of knowing. Knowing is that blanket in and through which we see the world. But in reality there is no world; there is only the invisible blanket, and we are that.