Tracing the Ego of Mankind – Imagine the Future

Thomas More wrote Utopia in 1515. His vision was of a world of individual freedom and equality that was governed by reason. He said, “in Utopia, where every man has a right to everything, they all know that if care is taken to keep the public stores full, no private man can want anything; for among them there is no unequal distribution, so that no man is poor, none in necessity, and though no man has anything, yet they are all rich; for what can make a man so rich as to lead a serene and cheerful life, free from anxieties.” (Utopia,ch10.html)

The world has experienced communism, socialism, and capitalism; each identified a set of rules for cooperation intended for the good of all the people. Yet each has failed to achieve the perfect state that mankind professes to desire. Too many people don’t like to play fair, and these systems only work when everyone follows the same rules. The ego loves power, status, control, and possession of material things. When the gap between the haves and the have-nots grows too great, the society flounders and falls. There is no peace when all people’s basic needs are not satisfied; and even when they are, the ego becomes envious of those who have more.

Mankind has always imagined a better future for himself. Yet, the world has grown in pockets of disparity, where some countries live in prosperity, even excess, while others live in poverty and despair. It would seem that the perfect world has been elusive, but not for lack of vision.

One would think that the U.S. would be among the happiest and most peaceful places in the world. However, wealth and possessions are not predictors of peace and happiness. Faith Popcorn, futurist and founder of BrainReserve, has spent her career observing the world and predicting trends based on people’s collective interests. In 1992 she said, “For the first time ever in the history of mankind, the wilderness is safer than civilization. There are no crack vials in the wilderness, no subway murders, no asbestos, no Scuds.” (The Popcorn Report, 4)

Popcorn identifies trends that will entrench us in our homes; which she says will become our fortress and place of refuge providing us with a feeling of safety from the outside world. This will lead to distribution systems that supply our fortress. More people will work from their homes and making them intruder-proof will become much more important.

She also says, “For the first time in history, nature is no longer our ally but our enemy. We are the new endangered species.” (The Popcorn Report, 4) Popcorn predicts that our food will be grown under controlled conditions in hygienic labs. This hardly sounds like the Utopia of our dreams.

Popcorn’s predictions clearly identify the separation and fear created by the egoistic mind. If there was a bright spot in her predictions it would be a trend she calls rooting; which is a return to our spiritual roots. For it will be in the security of our spirituality that we will find what we need to prepare for the future.

Man has industrialized the world, made significant scientific breakthroughs, and developed mind boggling technologies in the hope that it will improve our lives. Yet, we always find the need to return to spirit for comfort, security, and hope.

“The future bears a great resemblance to the past, only more so.” (The Popcorn Report,xv)

Tracing the Ego of Mankind – Male vs. Female Ego

Throughout the latter half of the 20th century the Western World experienced an enormous shift in the perception of women’s roles in society. While the seeds of thought for these changes were planted during the suffrage era, they literally exploded as the baby boom generation entered adulthood. The challenges women faced in their new world of work outside the home came from centuries of conditioning both men and women as to how they should behave and what was expected of them.

The resulting turmoil gave rise to a plethora of self-help books intended to educate the genders on how to relate to each other as equals. One of the most widely read books of that time was Men are From Mars, Women are From Venus by John Gray, Ph.D. This book paved the way for improved communication through understanding the communication style and emotional needs of the opposite sex. The book generated enormous conversation and ultimately succeeded in improving the way men and women related to each other, though there were many from older generations who chose to remain unaffected by its revelations and suggestions.

Another type of self-help book emerged as well. This type was aimed at teaching women how to survive in the world of work. They came with titles like “Nice Girls Don’t Get the Corner Office,” “Play Like a Man, Win Like a Woman”, and “How To Succeed in Business Without a Penis.” These books all directed attention to the differences between men and women. Sometimes they paved the way for understanding and constructive change. Sometimes they told women how to behave more like men. Ultimately, these books succeeded in developing a more individualistic nature in women who were more naturally inclined to be cooperative. This dubious success led to internal conflict for women who wanted to care for their families but felt pressured to perform and compete in the workplace.

In 1984, Susan Price, M.S.W. wrote the book The Female Ego. Price chose to advise women on how to find fulfillment by adjusting to lovers, family and career situations, without suppressing the female ego. She contributed a wealth of useful information but the title of the book and the clinical nature of the text left it sitting largely unnoticed by the general public.

For women, Price says positive strokes would come through affection, intimacy, personal compliments, and the words I love you. They also appreciate touch, hugging and hand holding. Women like recognition for effort, even if the results don’t turn out as expected, for being playful and fun, for talent or intelligence, and best of all for competency.

The male ego is developed differently. It is affected by status as heir and name bearer in the family, with boys getting more family attention. Expectations in a boy’s life are greater. He learns aggression through sports, gets strokes for things he does, gets different chores than girls, and his ego naturally assumes a superior position.

Self-help books written to improve lives may have had the opposite effect. Only 48% of households in the U.S. are married couples in 2011. This is down from 78% in the 1950s. There is a message here if we could only be sure what it is. It could be that with women in the workforce, we’ve developed an economic dynamic that makes marriage unnecessary or even obsolete. This would seem plausible if humans were simply ego driven, but that’s not the case. The study of male vs. female ego is certainly interesting and even entertaining but it is also a very shallow view of who we humans really are.

As workplaces reeled from the influx of women all kinds of new laws were being written to encourage right behavior. Laws governing sexual harassment, pay equality, gender discrimination and family leave were implemented. Business once dominated by the male ego was now faced with its counter force, the female ego and the transition was anything but smooth.

Then, in 1989, a book was published that marked the beginning of a major shift in how business would be practiced for decades to come. In 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen R. Covey, a groundbreaking shift was made moving business from the old male dominated authoritarian model to a model based on personal integrity. The business community was ready for change and Covey’s book took their world by storm.

The habits he identified were the development of a personal vision, leadership, and management plan; be proactive, begin with the end in mind, and put first things first. He encouraged interdependence; think win/win, seek first to understand, then to be understood, and synergize (creative cooperation). And finally, Covey identified the need for a program of balanced self-renewal he called Inside-Out Again.

While not overtly spiritual, Covey’s ideas challenged the ego driven authoritarian model that had governed business from the beginning of time. He also showed that it made no difference whether one was male or female. What mattered was that one operated from a point of integrity.

Tracing the Ego of Mankind – Psychoanalysis

Sigmund Freud was a medical doctor, physiologist, and psychologist who lived from 1856-1939. He was born in Frieberg, Moravia to a Jewish family who moved to Vienna where he accomplished most of his work. Freud is considered the father of psychoanalysis for his invention of the science of the mind, though this is the subject of critical debate and controversy. By elaborating a theory of the mind as a complex energy system and then refining the concepts of the conscious and unconscious mind, Freud was able to develop a therapeutic frame of reference for understanding human psychological development and for treating abnormalities of thought.

Through observation Freud came to the conclusion that the human mind has three parts: the id, ego, and super-ego. He describes id as that part of the unconscious that provides instinctual behavior and is totally self-serving. All babies are born with only id behaviors.

He tells us the ego is partly conscious and partly unconscious and is the controlling part of the mind that guides actions in the real world. The ego attempts to satisfy the needs of the id. It is this part of the mind that makes us each appear as unique personalities to the outer world.

The super-ego is also described as partly conscious and partly unconscious. The super-ego is our conscience or guidance mechanism. It attempts to temper the ego’s desire to satisfy id through responsible interactions in the real world.

Freud understood that most of what humans act upon results from thoughts developed in the unconscious mind. The conscious mind is most often unaware of what is causing the person to think or behave as they do as a result of this. He studied not only other people, but also himself through both hypnosis and direct observation and was able to develop methods of discovery of the origins of certain thoughts within individuals and a method for correcting those thoughts leading to a healthier mental state.

However, though Freud was born Jewish he practiced a much more humanistic view point that failed to see any connection between his observations and the spiritual nature of man. If one were to make these connections from a metaphysical point of view it would be clear that the id which he describes is our karma. The ego he describes has been described continually throughout spiritual history but without the word ego attached to it. Ego is what engages us to interact and survive in the physical world around us. The super-ego Freud has described would be better described as one’s True Self, one’s Spirit, or one’s Soul, for it is when we are being True that the urges of the id to influence our ego are being controlled for our higher good.

Freud recognized that ego is awakened or activated as a process of growth when he observed that babies at birth act only from id and that ego becomes part of their nature sometime later. Again, had he drawn upon his Jewish faith he may have seen that this ego development was described in the story of the Garden of Eden. It is in this story that Adam and Eve eat from the Tree of Knowledge and are cast out of the Garden for their sin. Adam and Eve are metaphors for all people in the world who began life living from id. The process of evolution developed or awakened the nature of their ego, which is represented by the Tree of Knowledge. Their being cast out of the Garden for their sin speaks to the separation ego has created between their human form and their Spirit, or super-ego. Freud has given the modern Western world a gift that is not yet fully realized.

We have made great strides in using Freud’s findings to help improve how many people relate to the world. However, psychoanalysis is going to jump a great divide when the spiritual reality of life is introduced to this process. This change is already occurring and can be seen in the work of Dr. Paul Leon Masters, founder of the International Metaphysical Ministry and its two universities. Dr. Masters has developed a doctoral study program for Theocentric Psychology. This program has been developed through his 50 plus years studying and working in the field of metaphysics, and is based on the concept that life is primarily spiritual and that it is within this realm that our problems in the world can be explained and solved.

The breakthrough in this shift to Theocentric Psychology is that problems are examined at a much deeper subconscious level than the ego, which only manifests the symptoms. Solving errors in thought at the karmic level provides eternal benefits that transcend the current physical life.

Tracing the Ego of Mankind – Kabbalah

Kabbalah was developed about 4,000 years ago and has remained pretty much hidden from the world until recently. Kabbalists believe an upper, all-inclusive force, called “the Creator,” controls everything in reality. All of the forces of our world, like gravity and electricity, are connected to this upper force. There are many more forces that work in our world but are hidden to us. By studying their books of wisdom, such as The Zohar one can develop a sense of what the forces are and their purpose. It is likened to studying guides to the comprehensive laws of nature. Kabbalists see their philosophy as science, though many others believe it to be Jewish Mysticism.

A fundamental belief in Kabbalah is that the Creator bestows, and the created receives. It is the task of the created to learn to receive with the intent to bestow. The idea here is to learn selfless bestowal, which sounds very similar to the Buddhist idea of self-less giving associated with positive karma.

Another fundamental belief in Kabbalah is the five stages of evolution which include bodily desire (food, sex, shelter, family), money (ownership, exchange, trade), honor (fame, pride, power), knowledge (control nature, technology), and Point in the Heart (spiritual perception). It is believed that man has collectively reached the first four stages of evolution and that those stages all pertain to man‟s ego. Kabbalah identifies ego as man‟s intent to receive from the Creator and believes that it is how man was meant to evolve in this world. This belief seems to depart from most forms of spirituality in that it accepts the egoistic ways of man as part of evolution and places no significance to it beyond that.

Kabbalah teaches that each stage of evolution must be lived to some point of fullness and satisfaction before a desire for the next stage can manifest. Some believe that we are at a point of evolution where it is the fulfillment (some would say pain) of living from the ego that will drive us into the next and final stage, Point in the Heart, at which level man will achieve spiritual perception.

It is interesting to consider what it means to the world if collectively man has reached the first four stages of evolution with only Point in the Heart, or spiritual perception, remaining. From the caveman to traders to monarchs to industrialists, our past has followed a clear evolutionary path consistent with Kabbalah. We now look to our current world and see the tremendous leap man has taken in knowledge and technology in just the past century. It seems entirely possible that spirituality would be the next step in the evolutionary path. It also bears uncanny resemblance to the Book of Revelations found in the Bible.

Tracing the Ego of Mankind – Eastern Traditions

The Perennial Philosophy was committed to writing over twenty-five centuries ago and was expressed in many different forms. It has been spoken in almost all the languages of Asia and Europe and has made use of the terminology and traditions of all of the higher religions.

At the core of the Perennial Philosophy are four fundamental doctrines: 1) The physical world and the spiritual world are the manifestation of a Higher Power, within which everything has it‟s being, and without which, would be nonexistent. 2) Humans are capable of more than just knowing about the Higher Power. They can also realize its existence by direct intuition thereby uniting the knower with the known. 3) Man has a dual nature; his ego or external self, and his eternal Self which is the inner man or spark of Divinity within the soul. 4) Man‟s life on earth has only one purpose and one end; that is to recognize his eternal Self and to become one with the Higher Power.

From the Perennial Philosophy, one can see that ego has been a concern of humanity for all of recorded history. Over time man has dealt with his ego in a variety of ways. In the Hindu Bhagavad-Gita, we read about the great warrior, Arjuna who asks his friend, Krishna (an enlightened being) how an illumined soul may be recognized. Krishna says to him: “He knows peace who has forgotten desire; He lives without craving, free from ego, free from pride.”

Krishna explains even more about the nature of ego when he identifies the three gunas or bonds that tie man to his mortal existence. It seems sattwa/rajas/tamas are the egos search for happiness and longing for knowledge/ the egos thirst for pleasure and possessions/and the egos delusion and ignorance about reality. Krishna tells Arjuna that man will be made free and become immortal when he has overcome the gunas and no longer yearns for them.

The Hindu tradition was a critical force in the development of Buddhism. Yet, there is a difference in how they perceive the ego and its role in physical life. Whereas Hindus seek to suppress ego, Buddhists seek to walk the Middle Path. This idea of a middle path is explained in an ancient sutra that tells a story called “The Parable of the Bird”.

The story tells of a particular royal palace in which there was a daily ritual of selecting plump birds from a large flock to be served at the king‟s table. One of the birds, who had been captured and kept in the flock, observed this selection process and secretly in his heart considered his fate; if he gorged himself and became obese, he reasoned that he would surely be slaughtered and devoured. However, if he did not eat, he knew that he would perish. In either event, he knew he would not escape death. He determined that it would be best to eat just the right amount so that he could live a long life. From that point on, he adequately reduced his food intake shrinking himself to the size of the holes in the net meshing of his bird cage. He then flew out into open air and became free.

This story suggests that the Middle Path is a philosophy of balance through moderation. It‟s actually more than that. The Middle Path seeks to attain a nature of emptiness. It recognizes that pain and hardship will always exist in the world and that joy, pleasure, and happiness will as well. The state of emptiness is a non-emotional, non-egocentric reaction to these events.

In the Samyuktagama, it says “One who thinks of impermanence will understand the truth of ego-lessness. The Enlightened One lives in the state of ego-lessness, renounces self-conceit and hence progresses towards liberation and Nirvana.”

The Middle Path is therefore more than a philosophy of moderation. It seeks to help one understand that physical life is impermanent and spiritual life is eternal. What happens in the physical life is of less concern (this too shall pass) than what happens in the spiritual life.

Tracing the Ego of Mankind – Reviewing the Literature

Ancient Hindu texts are a rich source of insight into the nature of man‟s ego.

“…The ego gropes in darkness, while the Self lives in light…”  ~ The Katha Upanishad

“The ego is like a stick dividing water in two. It creates the impression that you are one and I am another. When the ego vanishes you will realize that Brahman is your own inner consciousness.”  ~ Shri Ramakrishna Paramahamsa

Ancient Eastern religious texts are available primarily as translations and excerpts. They are filled with references to ego and advice for living with or managing ego. Ego appears to have been a very key concept in understanding their relationship to God.

The Judeo-Christian and Islamic traditions are considered to be Western traditions and are relatively young at about 2,000 years old. The basis of Jewish sacred texts is the Torah, which became the first five books of the Bible used by Christianity. The principal message of the Torah is the absolute unity of God, His creation of the world and His concern for it.

The Koran is the sacred text of Islam. However, most of the Western world is more familiar with the wisdom provided by the poet, Rumi; also a Sunni Muslim Islamic Jurist, a theologian and Sufi mystic. His current popularity is the result of his tolerance of all religions, and the emphasis he placed on love and charity in his teachings.

“If the foot of the trees were not tied to earth, they would be pursuing me. For I have blossomed so much, I am the envy of the gardens.”  ~ Rumi

“The idol of your self is the mother of all idols. To regard the self as easy to subdue is a mistake.”  ~ Rumi

Sylvia Brown provides a concise description of many indigenous and Native American spiritual beliefs in her book End of Days. The recurring theme in these traditions is a deep regard for the earth and for the plant and animal kingdoms. This regard for animate and inanimate creation outside of the human being demonstrates an awareness of the Oneness of creation and sensitivity to the damaging power of ego.

Clearly, man has had ample opportunity to examine the state of his ego long before Sigmund Freud gave us a proper name and definition for it. It appears that Freud ushered in a new era of thought regarding ego. The ways in which he dissected, analyzed, and proposed curing its ailments, removed any and all spiritual consideration. This mentality became the basis for psychology, sociology and much of the self-help literature that appeared through the latter half of the twentieth century.

The Western world has embraced science and disregarded ego almost since the inception of Christianity. The sacred texts of the Western world provided ample guidance on the matter of ego, yet it appears largely ignored. In fact, strong ego is even admired in certain occupations; including lawyers, politicians, sports figures, and business leaders.

Now as we have entered the twenty-first century we are seeing a new kind of literature entering the market. Interestingly, this literature is the result of science proving what spirituality has been telling us since ancient times.

The Divine Matrix by Gregg Braden, describes a web of energy that connects absolutely everything in the universe. Miraculously, this web is affected by emotion pointing directly back to the power of each individual to influence the world by their thoughts.

Blinded by Science by Matthew Silverstone, investigates the ground-breaking principle that everything vibrates and therefore has an effect on everything else. Water is particularly susceptible to vibration, holding on to it for long periods of time. This has implications for sleep disorders, homeopathy, healing, body rhythms, lunar cycles and much more.

The rise in quantum physics, which is where these amazing new discoveries are being made, coincides with a spiritual movement called Oneness. Authors like Eckhart Tolle, Deepak Chopra, Don Miguel Ruiz and others, are capturing large audiences, hungry for a gentler life filled with meaning and purpose. 

The literature seems to mimic the circle of life. We begin knowing that ego separates us from the world; we succumb to the darkness of our ego and wreak havoc on the world; and finally we experience an awakening which brings us back to understanding that beyond our ego, we are all one.

The challenge before us is to fashion a peaceful world where some live in ego while others are awakening to the desire to transcend it. The Awakening is in its infancy, and it seems the ramifications of the coming change haven‟t dawned on the world as yet. Books like Suze Orman’s Action Plan: New Rules for New Times may be just the beginning of what we are going to see in coming years. Orman‟s book is an acknowledgement that we are entering a new economic era that promises to be difficult and long term. Practical books like this one help everyone navigate through the changes that are occurring, without regard to one‟s level of spiritual enlightenment.

Tracing the Ego of Mankind – Introduction

With every passing day we see more evidence of the audacity of man’s ego. We are witness to a world that is being thrust forward as man’s inventiveness has climbed exponentially, and we are witness to his ever increasing self confidence – a confidence that leads him to believe, perhaps rightly so, that anything is possible.

Fortunes have been created in ways never before imaginable, through the size and marketing of one’s ideas, talent, and determination rather than through the strength of one’s army or the prominence of one’s ancestors. Luxuries previously available only to royalty have become available to the common man. Monarchies have relinquished their previous status to the new found power and influence of the self-made industrialists and financiers. World leaders are more often the product of democracy than birth; a democracy that is essential to the capitalist philosophy which is now driving the world’s economy.

The road to prosperity has been rough. The world has endured many wars, and has endured increasingly frequent and widespread economic hardship. Collectively we seem to accept these problems as a natural part of life, while we continue to strive for world peace and an end to hunger. Overall, we believe we are making progress on the problems that define our daily lives. Perhaps this progress is the result of man’s ego; his ability to know what he wants, to figure out how to get it, and to take action. Man’s self confidence has never been higher, nor has his ego been more dominant.

We are now seeing the breakdown of moral standards among our world leaders, politicians, teachers and clergy. Hardly a day goes by that a sex scandal isn’t announced; and hardly a day goes by that those stories aren’t spun to make them seem more palatable. Our traditional heroes have become headline news for drugs, promiscuity and reckless behavior. Sadly, ordinary people seem to be losing their own moral compass as well.

The news has become filled with tragic stories of youth who are being marginalized and bullied. Feeling misunderstood and unsupported they turn to suicide or worse yet, mass murder. It’s not just our youth experiencing this disillusionment; vast segments of our general workforce are feeling it as well. “Going postal” has become common terminology for this phenomenon. For many, even home is not a place of refuge from a world losing control of better judgment. According to the U.S. Department of Justice, in 1999 there were 791,210 reports of domestic violence with 1,642 resulting in death of the victim.

Among the pressures driving our dissatisfaction is the rise of marketing. Marketers have made fortunes for the businesses they serve by convincing the world that everyone needs their products or services in order to; be sexier, be happier, have more fun, keep up with others, and demonstrate their success. Unlike advertising, which helps you find what you need, marketing caters to the ego. The ego wants to be special; to have at least what others have, and preferably more. Marketers understand the desires of the ego and know how to push ones buttons without regard for individual needs or capabilities. And so, fewer and fewer companies make more and more money, much of which they spend on lobbying to create the political environment that best serves their interests. We call these systems capitalism and democracy, and lost in our egoistic ways, we think they represent the best systems for the rest of the world to follow.

While these problems are substantial, there may be an even bigger problem with man’s ego-centered approach to life. In his zeal to solve medical mysteries, provide cheap energy, end world hunger, and improve daily life, he has rushed into sciences he barely understands. This lack of understanding has steadily depleted the ozone layer, led to earthquakes from fracking for natural gas, poisoned millions of people with radiation, created droughts in some places and floods in others, and led to wars over natural resources and the attendant loss of many lives.

As man works to solve the problems of the world he seems to be creating even bigger problems. The biggest problem may be the tunnel vision that has developed as a result of greed. The wheels of our current science are lubricated with money. Given a choice between money and responsible use of earth’s resources, money usually prevails. All people share in this problem as co-conspirators until such a time as we are ready to exert our collective will to make change happen.

As we have watched man’s magnificent ego solve mysteries and create new things we’ve experienced a time in this world that will go down in history for its innovation, growth, and abundance. At the same time however, we are witnessing a great divide in the minds of people everywhere. The divide seems to be between those who relish in the magnificence of individualism and those who believe we need to develop our capacity for cooperation. This divide cannot be ignored as its ability to polarize people is growing in strength with each new war, epidemic, and natural disaster.

The investigation undertaken here will be a journey through mans understanding of his ego. From the writings of the world’s oldest religions to the contemporary self-help books, we will look at what man thinks he knows about himself and about his relationship with the world around him. From this study will emerge a critical view of the human ego and how it has shaped the world in which we live.