Understanding Ego, Mind, Soul and God
When people first begin to get serious about their spirituality, they are often quite surprised that it is much harder than expected. In business relationships, the managing of expectations is a critical part of what makes a particular partnership work over the long term. For example, if I tell you that by hiring my company, you will see an increase in profits of 50% in the first 6 months but in fact, you only see an increase of 20%, you would be understandably disappointed. Or if I said I would provide weekly reports to document the progress of our project but 2 months had past and you still hadn’t seen one report, this would be grounds for concern.
Spirituality, according to a huge majority in our world, takes a few clichéd forms. There is a ‘spiritual, not religious’ form where people do yoga, or practice meditation focused around stilling their minds and breathing deeply, or they take on an outer cause to defend (animal rights, human rights, environmental protection etc) or they become vegetarians for political or health reasons. This style of spirituality is fine although it often produces a subtle attitude of righteousness, separation and exclusion.
Another form of spirituality is to reject the economic system and become a ‘free spirit’. In this modality, people refuse traditional work, anything that supports the profit driven society and then proceed to barely eke out a survival, living in a poverty mindset yet happy not to be contributing to the demise of our planet. Their conscience feels clearer to be outside the money hungry world of business and many try to be positive contributors where they can.
And probably the most traditional form of spirituality is to follow a world religion such as Christianity, Muslim or Judaism, attend regular services, pray to God and do the best to live a morally ‘correct’ life. Some who choose this route find fulfillment through extensive involvement in their church or community, taking on projects, volunteering and basically giving of their time to be of service to those in need. Again, like the other flavors of spirituality, this one is mostly an outer expression with some limited sense of how God truly works.
In this community however, people are drawn by the possibility of something vastly different than the approaches mentioned. When a person begins to feel the awakening within their soul that spurns an insatiable hunger for Truth (with a capital T), these outer expressions of spirituality do not meet the pressing demand, so to speak. Why is that?
The reason that all these practices and outer expressions of spirit or proper living don’t really cut it is because our soul knows there is something much huger and much better than what we have been doing up to this point. The soul knows because it has already been there, already walked this journey, already has the concrete memory of a real spiritual life and is no longer willing to postpone that journey for the sake of some watered down version while alive on Earth.
Now our soul is a pretty patient part of us and we probably should take a moment in our next meditation and sincerely apologize for how long we have made it wait before we began getting serious about starting the journey in this life. But thankfully, its rebellion is a positive one and it really just wants us to get on track so it can settle into the work ahead. This is often quite a relaxing moment, the point at which we have listened to the calling of our soul and we now can see there in fact is a path and the gate has opened for us to walk it.
This brings us back to the managing of expectations. Wouldn’t it make sense that getting ourselves back on the right track, the real spiritual journey per se, we would be filled with joy and elation. After all, we’re going to be living our real lives now and will soon be united with the True and Living God! Well, if that was all there were, I’d say yes, it will be all joy and happiness, maybe a few challenges but the kind that are really engaging and fun, and resolve easily like doing a tough crossword puzzle but one where you pretty much can get all the answers if you think for a few minutes.
Well, unfortunately, this is far from the reality that a soul faces upon really accepting this mission. And the primary reason that this journey is actually very difficult, especially in the early months or even years is that we have very established parts of ourselves that really do not want this voyage to succeed, thank you very much.
We are now going to talk about the ego, this part within each of us that has enjoyed quite a nice long reign over our decisions, actions, thoughts and general philosophy of life. The ego has an agenda that is mostly at odds with our soul. The soul wants our whole being in union with God because in that union, it knows that it is fulfilling our personal, Divine Purpose as a human being while alive here on Earth. That love connection with God needs to be in place, knows the soul and then everything else will flow. It doesn’t mean every day we will be curled up at the feet of angels who are strumming golden hearts while we eat our favorite creamy deserts. Hardly. But it does mean we will have the most fulfilling, wondrous, magical life doing what God has deemed best for us and we will have a very full tool belt for how to deal with life’s challenges or trials as the Bible calls them, promptly and effectively.
The ego on the other hand is all about separation and WAM or What About Me! And it is not about to give up its spot as top dog in order to ‘join with all humanity and become some kind of boring spiritual person’. The ego is filled with misconceptions and wrong attitudes.
At the same time, our ego is not to be killed because it has a function as long as we are in physical bodies. Think of it this way… if we don’t eat at regular intervals, or don’t drink water, eventually our bodies will shrivel and die. If we don’t sleep for 2 days or more, we really slip in our ability to function thus robbing our organs and flesh bodies the time they need to rejuvenate. Eventually lack of sleep will compromise our immune systems and we will get sick. If it’s really cold out, the ego wants us to get inside and be warm or else, again, if unattended to, our bodies will die if exposed for prolonged periods.
So it is wise to think of the ego as that part of us that makes sure we manage the very basic physical needs. Beyond that, we have much better faculties within us that should govern other decisions. Within most people alive today, these other parts have never been actively developed. In their place, our ego has gladly assumed the responsibility which actually is a recipe for a very miserable life.
Why? Because the ego doesn’t have the capacity to access the Universal Intelligence and Love or God which is that Divine Energy or Being that created us and which knows that we need to be in union with Him/Her in order to reach a peaceful and deeply fulfilling state of being. That’s right; our ego can’t play that role and was never meant to.
What if at the age of 8, your parents never made you any more meals. They said to you one day “We’ve been feeding you for 8 straight years. We think you get the picture. You know where the fridge is and where the pantry is. You take over.” From that moment on, you would likely be eating a few very basic meals, easy ones to prepare and very comforting foods because you would lack the development and skill to make nutritious meals or to vary things up very much.
You’d probably eat a lot of mac and cheese, mashed potatoes, sugary cereals, chocolate milk, chips… you get the idea. Even if one day as a teenager, you decided to try and cook some meat, you’d have no idea how to buy the right cut, how to season it, cook it and if after a few bites it tasted bland, or was tough, you’d likely never try again. Such is the way of life of someone who isn’t taught new things and who is acting from an under developed part of themselves which is totally mal-equipt to do the job it has been assigned.
The second problem with the ego is that it has formed an alliance with our minds. In fact, it can be very helpful to think of our mind being the henchman of the ego. The mind by its very nature is not dark, selfish or self-serving. In fact, it is a super intelligent and complex thing created by God to serve our beings. It is like a transmitting and receiving station with incredible power and range. It has conscious and subconscious parts which are truly miraculous in their creative ability.
But the mind is no leader, it is a follower. The mind of its own accord is lost and will loop itself into whatever ridiculous or fantastical thoughts are stored within it. Remember, the mind wants direction and it will default to the most persistent leader of your being. So who is presiding at present? For most of us humans, it is the ego. And that’s the equivalent of putting 16 year old who just got their driver’s license in charge of planning out the entire country’s roads and highway system. Bad idea.
So what is this alliance that the ego has developed with the mind? It is a union based in ideas of misunderstanding; one is survival, another is indulgence, another is gratification, and another power. These are the interpretations of a lesser faculty that has assumed responsibility over something way beyond its means. Again with the metaphor of a child given authority beyond its capacity… he will tend to govern only to the depth that provides him gratification and happiness but won’t be capable of thinking or acting beyond a certain set of conditions and behaviors. He simply hasn’t developed to such an extent.
In the case of the ego, it will never develop to a point where it can lead a being, certainly not the way the soul can. The soul is always wanting to move towards God and fulfill its ultimate purpose which is the expression of God in service to God. The ego can do an ok job of keeping us alive and our lives filled with drama, misguided relationships, addictions, ambitions to excel past others, striving for luxurious conditions, admired for our beauty, intelligence, personal style and on and on. But as we all sadly know, a life filled with these trophies of the ego offers only temporary relief from the emotional angst of life on Earth. On a deeper level, this way of living is simply to mask that gnawing of our soul which is simultaneously trying to get our attention.
Recapping what we have established, our ego has a motive to glorify ourselves and has coerced our minds into its service. The mind has accepted the ego as that intelligent guide it longs for and continues merrily fulfilling the wishes of the ego regardless of how the outcomes continue to take us farther and farther from a state of true peace and happiness. This makes for a very attractive environment for the battle of good and evil to rage on within.
While this may be a stretch for some to acknowledge, consider that hundreds of movies have been made that play out this war between the forces of good and evil. Why this is so engaging to humans is because it is the fundamental reality we live in day by day, sometimes even minute by minute. We can relate to it on a daily basis, that is the temptation to do what we know is right compared to the allure of what we can feel is wrong but that dangles a possible special prize for us.
All of us are at a different place as to what aspects of darkness we allow to live within us. It would be very short sighted and a complete lack of humility to assume we don’t let darkness live within us to some degree. The Bible teaches some very clear commandments on how to live when we are in accord with God or the Light. For example, if we have ill will feelings towards another human, we have allowed the darkness to claim some part in us.
Coming back to the opening of this lesson, let’s talk about expectations. Suppose we finally have decided to take our soul up on its persistent call within us and have found a Path back to God. We begin to open a little with the help of some souls who have walked this Path before us and we welcome the Grace of God to Light the way within us and before us. Now what?
We begin to learn that there is a new leadership team being considered for the position of president and counsel of your being. This team is infinitely more equipped and prepared to be the decision makers in this life. The current president is the ego with mind as its VP. The new leadership team is the soul as president with the GodSelf as Chairman of the board. So a slightly different configuration.
The reason we can’t just dismiss the old president and swear in the new is what makes this journey quite a challenge. As any of us can attest, if we could just get rid of a family member that in particular causes us grief and irritation, we probably would. But family, in most cultures cannot be divorced. We’re kind of stuck with them as long as they continue to live.
Our ego can’t be completely dismissed, killed or forgotten because it was created to serve a function. So how is it going to work when you take your ego out of being the president, the all glorious ruler who has quote, gotten you this far unquote, and now they are being demoted to janitor. And to make matters even worse, you are replacing it with this part that, as far as the ego is concerned, doesn’t even exist, let alone have any real experience or skills to keep the being alive, well and comfortable. This is truly an outrage!
Next we have the mind which was faithfully serving the ego and was appointed to a powerful right hand role as the vice president. The new leader, the soul says “I still want you in the executive team but now I’m going to call you Manager of Creative Affairs” which is a far cry from its prior role. You can imagine that all will not be peaceful during this transition period.
Expectation number one, there will be conflict. Why? Because the ego, now in a maintenance function still knows where the mind is and has had a long allegiance to it. It is not about to accept itself being ousted from the top spot without a fight. Keep in mind, it is not just fighting to be difficult. It is fighting because it believes the soul has no idea what it is doing. For example, the soul has already begun to examine and veto things that the ego has spent decades putting into place. Examples of these things may include drugs and alcohol as enjoyable recreations, or certain attitudes of grandiosity that have always served to propel itself farther ahead in career. The soul is trying to stop certain foods from coming in but the ego is appalled at such stupidity. “Doesn’t it know how much pleasure we get from eating these things!? What is it trying to do to us? I need to fix this right away!”
These voices of the ego are to be expected and many more. In fact, we can’t even predict how many times, ways, and places the ego will try to raise a stink in its plan to show just how terrible the new leadership team is. You can be sure it will be watching for those moments when things seem to be going poorly and take advantage of these times to get the mind riled up (which in turn will stir up all sorts of emotions).
Keep in mind that there is always the active enemy hoping to convince you that the Path to God is a huge mistake. It will find countless creative and brilliantly timed arguments to show how your old life of ignorance was easier, more fun, more manageable and really just more acceptable since pretty much everyone is doing it and they all appear to be doing just fine!
You can be sure they are not at all doing fine. Some may be superficially content. Some may be cruising on the perceived easy life while the vast majority are riding a roller coaster of difficult emotional woes, inflated hopes, glimpses of love, terrible tragedies, crushing disappointments, unexplained obstacles, moments of sheer triumph, pockets of Grace but an overall sense that they don’t know what could happen at any point and God help them when it does. In other words, there is a lot of fear in our hearts and we are enslaved to the decisions of the ego and life for us is an anxiety filled, constant balance of fear, hope, and survival.
On the other hand, the Path of the Soul is the complete opposite. It is a life of certainty, confidence, wonder… of magical miracles, unexplained Graces, open doors that lead to tremendous growth and fulfillment and essentially the absolute knowing that one’s purpose is right on track with the all loving God who created us. Who could ask for anything more?
For the time being, most are very happy to settle for much less. And this is simply because the inner battle of dethroning the ego, reassigning it, breaking its influence over the mind and trusting the unpredictable, unorthodox and unfamiliar style of the Soul, receiving perfect and mysterious advice from the GodSelf is just too darn hard!
It is hard, true. And in fact, Jesus even told us that narrow is the Path that leads to the Kingdom of Heaven. Many parables and teachings expressed very clearly the difficulty we face in this journey. But He also emphasized how much help there is available, and how life becomes so full of abundant treasures by just our willingness to even give it a shot.
In future lessons, we will begin to delve much deeper into the day to day process of how this leadership change takes place. We will see how the ego pulls out all the stops and twists every little detail to support its dying cause. As well, we will see how the soul and Self when listened to diligently and earnestly continually demonstrate a better outcome not just for ourselves but for everyone around us. One of the key differentiators is time. The ego wants it all now! But God sees the long view. Our spiritual maturity is thus defined to a certain degree by our ability and willingness to delay gratification. This also puts pressure on our faith. We need real faith in order to follow what we are instructed to do from within because it often won’t make sense to our mind and certainly won’t sit well with our ego.
For now, simply become aware of the fact that the journey ahead is a daily choice. By whose authority will you be led as you awake each day? We suggest the Path of the Soul. We know from experience that learning to walk this way requires a diligent effort. And also that when this new Way of life becomes more settled, there really is no turning back… thankfully.