On this warm summer day in Northern Quebec, crystals of faux amphibolites (cummingtonite-plagioclase-biotite-garnet) lay exposed on the ground and bathe in the bright sunlight. Considered to be among the oldest rocks on Earth (4.28 billion years old) and possibly part of our planets original first crust, these ancient sentinels of time – have no ego.
Of course everyone would say that a rock has no ego. That seems to be just common sense. Such a notion is quite preposterous and borderlines on insanity.
But why is that, and how do we know?
A rock displays no visible sign that it is aware of itself, or its surroundings. Yet the ability to be aware is not the sole criteria for confirming the existence, or non existence, of an ego.
The term ego is often defined as a human trait. It’s how we see ourselves as separate and distinct from all other people in the world. It gives us the sense of I and mine; a unique identity in our world of multiplicity.
Yet just having an individual body, with both inner and outer awareness, is also not the sole criteria for confirming the existence of an ego.
There is much more to the ego than that. We need to explore deeper.
Most religious and philosophical systems categorize the different levels of creation. Some speak in terms of different bodies, while others speak in terms of unmanifest and manifest principles. In the mainstream Buddhist tradition there are three sheaths (Dharmakaya, Sambhogakaya and Nirmanakaya), subdivided into 31 levels. In Hinduism there are five Koshas (Anandamayi, Vigyanamayi, Manomayi, Pranamayi, and Annamayi).
Let us explore where the ego resides, and where it does not, based on the Theosophical system of seven divisions:
• Adi – Spirit, the first, original, and primordial element. • Anupadaka – The unmanifest logos, self born and spontaneously generated. • Atman – The highest part of a human being, pure consciousness. It is the realization and knowledge of “I am the absolute SELF, eternal and unbounded.” • Buddhi – The spiritual soul, the faculty of discriminating, the channel through which streams divine inspiration. • Mental – Manas, the Causal and Mental realm. • Astral – The emotional realm.
• Physical – The dense physical world composed of material, liquid, gas and etheric levels.
The crystals of faux amphibolites are composed of hard physical substances. It can be seen, tasted, smelled, touched, and even heard when the forces of nature (erosion and heat) act upon it. These minerals have a physical body, a basic consciousness, and nothing more.
Plants and flowers first appeared on the earth’s surface about 700 million years ago. These delicate and beautifully life structures have a material as well as an Etheric body. We have learned in previous posts that having an Etheric (life force) body is characteristic of all living beings.
Plants are conscious of their environment. When the sun rises in the morning many species turn in that direction to bathe in the warm precious rays. When the sun sets many close their petals and rest. They respond to heat and cold, drought and rain, and thrive when conditions for growth are present. Scientists now believe that somehow plants communicate with each other. When a pest (i.e., aphids, beetles, caterpillars, etc.) or disease is present and threatens a plant community, plants in the area take a defensive posture.
Because of the presence of plants on the Earth we have a life sustaining oxygen-enriched atmosphere. This happens thru a process called Photosynthesis …
6CO2 + 6H2O + sun light = C6H12O6 + 6O2
(carbon dioxide + water + sun light = glucose (sugar) + oxygen)
We owe our lives to plants. Plants are the bottom line basis of the food chain. Without plants there is no food.
When we as human beings fall asleep, dreaming takes place when our awareness is centered in the Etheric body. So it is said that because the highest body a plant has is Etheric, a plant’s consciousness is likened to that of a dream state.
With only a Physical and Etheric presence plants are incapable of emotion or reasoning. They have no ego, or sense of I or mine, since that is a more highly developed life trait.
Animals have a Physical, Etheric, and Astral body. Nothing more, nothing less.
On the physical level, animals are acutely aware of their environment. In fact they are more attuned then we are. They can see, taste, hear, smell and feel. Depending upon the species of animal, their five senses are more developed and function beyond the normal range of human perception.
The Astral body (linga sarira) is also known as the feeling and emotional body. Because animals have an Astral body they can experience; anger, fear, happiness and sadness.
In order to function more efficiently and express greater awareness in our diversified time/space world, life forms have developed more complex brain and nervous system structures.
As you can see from the picture below, greater expression of life’s intelligence depends upon more refined physical organs.
Animals rely on instinct to guide and protect them in the world. Through instinct, or feeling what is right, they know what to eat, where dangers are, and how to act. It’s a collective consciousness that they share. They do not have the ability to reason, which is a higher trait.
They have no ego, or sense of I or mine. That feature does not develop in the Astral body, which is the highest attainable for animals.
Men, women and children stand shoulders above all other living creatures on the Earth. That’s because humans have a Mental, Buddhi, and Atman body. Our sense of Ego, or identity, lay within all three of these levels.
For the most part, the Atman body is but a seed within modern man. It lies dormant and undeveloped.
Although the Buddhic body is somewhat more utilized in man, it still remains an untapped reservoir of potential. Today intuition and the higher values of mind function at minimal levels.
Our true individuality is referred to as the Monad, whose presence resides in Atman and Buddhi.
The Mental level consists of the Causal and Mental body, sometimes called Manas.
The practice of meditation develops all human bodies.
If you believe in reincarnation it’s the ego consisting of Atman Buddhi Manas that come to regeneration, again and again.
The birth and development of ego is a major milestone in the spiritual development of human beings. It’s one of the foremost characteristic traits that separates and makes us unique, among all other Earthly creatures.
Only people and higher beings have an individual ego, one per life-form.
On the evolutionary ladder one rung below us, animals have a collective or group identity that resides on the Astral level. When an animal dies their life experiences and lessons learned are incorporated back into the Astral group identity. That is where animals get their instinctive nature from.
For man, the full development of ego takes place in our material time-spatial world.
When one is faced with choice, preference, and a multifarious environment in which to act, human distinctiveness becomes sharper and more pronounced. It is said that no two people are exactly the same.
Human beings have control over their Buddhi, Mental, Astral and Ethric bodies. Even though these inner bodies can bring to bear great influence on our physical body, it’s the external physical laws of nature that holds sway and actually govern it.
Try not drinking or eating for a period of time, and see what happens.
When our inner life force withdraws from the physical body at death, then the corporeal forces of nature take over and decay promptly sets in. So from the standpoint of material existence, we can honestly say that our physical bodies are more in tune with the laws of nature; than our Etheric, Astral, Mental and Buddhic bodies.
Exposed to the field of space/causality over time, human beings have diversified thru the development of different races, languages, and cultures. All of these activities strengthen and make for more pronounced human ego.
People are also different from each other based on their sexual identity (male & female), sexual orientation, how happy (or sad) they are, and whether they consider their lives to be a success or failure.
Modern Psychology identifies personality and intelligence as the two root factors that distinguish one ego from another.
• Personality – Your style of dealing with other people and the world
• Intelligence – Your abstract reasoning, problem solving, and capacity to acquire knowledge
Both personality and intelligence are somewhat stable over time, but they can change. Meditation serves as an accelerant to elevate both of these characteristics to the highest possible levels of life.
Human heredity and personal experience account for why people are different.
Behavioral Genetics has found that our basic inclinations in life are contained in our DNA; passed down to us from our parents and their family lineage. Our basic view of life is also molded by experience in our shared (family) and non-shared environments.
Here is an interesting tale about two identical twins …
“Lulin and Yanfei discovered they had been separated at birth. The two were put up for adoption as infants because of China’s one-child policy. The girls share a number of things in common: They were both married in 2007, their husbands have the same name (Bin), they share some of the same hobbies and favorite foods, and their sons could pass for twins. Here’s something that’s really uncanny — they each have a scar on their fingers resulting from similar accidents that happened when they were 6 years old.”
This story clearly demonstrates that there is high heritability for almost everything; intelligence, personality, how happy you are, how religious you are, your political orientation, your sexual orientation, et cetera, et cetera.
Now with regard to the influence of environment, here is another story …
Spring has arrived so Chinese farmer Shaozu sets out to plough his fields and plant his crops. This past winter was financially difficult so he had to sell off some of their dairy herd to make ends meet. Because of that he only has enough cow manure to fertilize half of his fields. After fertilizing half, and waiting the required time for proper soil assimilation, he planted his corn seed. There was plenty of rain and sunshine over the next weeks. But as expected, the corn that grew on the fertilized soil was larger and more robust than the corn that was not fertilized.
This story clearly demonstrates that the same corn (identical genetic makeup) grew differently based upon the environment that it grew up in.
Over time the various climatic and environmental differences on our planet shape and influence how people develop and mature. Live by the sea, and your world revolves around water, adventure, and seafaring. Live in the mountains, and your physiology adapts to the thinner air and harsh climate. Live in the desert as nomads, and you are more likely to be thin and tall in body structure.
If you live where there are four distinct seasons (spring, summer, autumn and winter) your outlook on life gets molded differently than someone who lives at the equator, where the climate is similar all year round.
Our various human cultures and religious systems create egos that are vastly different. Because of these two strong influences on a persons life, philosophies and world interpretations vividly contrast. Some people believe that the “here and now” is all that is important and all that really exists, while others believed that their current life is but a test and preparation for a next one.
Systems that treat women as unequal to men have a detrimental effect on ego development.
We eat different foods, wear different clothes, and live in different places. Some people are outgoing in nature, while others are shy. Some are smarter than others, and some have better memories. Some are resilient, and some are dependent. And what we learn from our parents greatly influences how we interact with the world.
As we dive deeper into the world of materiality and continue to study its endless differing aspects, the human intellect develops further and becomes more refined.
Thinking in terms of language rather than in pictures, is a sign of greater discriminative skill.
Intellectual human development is on the rise. As noted, the “Flynn effect “is the substantial and long-sustained increase in intelligence test scores measured in many parts of the world from roughly 1930 to the present day.”
The ability to remember is intimately linked to the structure of ego, and what we sometimes call the soul. Our Causal body retains the essence (memory impression) of all personal experiences.
The birth of ego is a blessing and part of the natural unfoldment of human life. But now that the ego is born, our spiritual mission is to bring it to maturity. That means overcoming and outgrowing the negative attributes of a young, totally self centered ego.
After having fully embraced the physical world we should now set our sights on learning loftier lessons. Human beings are now on the upward (spiritual) swing of evolution.
Through concerted effort, growth, greater knowledge, and meditation; negative ego attributes (selfishness, greed and violence) will give way to peace, harmony, and enlightenment for all.
Great people have said …
The ego is nothing other than the focus of conscious attention.
More the knowledge lesser the Ego, lesser the knowledge, more the Ego
The Ego is a veil between humans and God. In prayer all are equal.
When your mind becomes fixed on Me, you shall overcome all difficulties by My grace. But, if you do not listen to Me due to ego, you shall perish.
When the body is filled with ego and selfishness, the cycle of birth and death does not end.
Sri Guru Granth Sahib
The foundation of the Buddha’s teachings lies in compassion, and the reason for practicing the teachings is to wipe out the persistence of ego, the number-one enemy of compassion.
I add …
A mature ego is one that imbibes all the noble truths of life. Having attained enlightenment through daily meditation, functioning now fully in the Atman body, every action promotes peace and well being for all.