Peter’s Correspondence on Mailing List B
Correspondent No 24
RESPONDENT: I think that this can be very tricky to talk about. In the ‘Ego’ issue of WIE it was pointed out that there are at least two ways to think about the ego. If we are talking about the ‘self-organizing’ principle. That sense of self that allows us to act in the world, to walk, to talk, etc.
Well, then an argument can be made for that being natural.
PETER: It is very clear from observing the rest of the animate world that a self, or more correctly, a social and instinctual self, is not at all necessary to ‘act in the world’. All animals are automatically programmed to act and do whatever tasks are necessary to survive and flourish. Animals hunt, eat, sleep, fight, mate and reproduce without any ego, or self, at all. The only exception being chimpanzees, our closest genetic cousins, who share 99% of human genes and who have an instinctual self corresponding with the human instinctual self.
RESPONDENT: But if we are speaking about pride, self-infatuation or that image of self-importance that allows human beings to literally destroy other people, other forms of life and the very world in which we live and then to rationalize these actions.
PETER: Of all the animals, chimpanzees exhibit emotional-instinctual behaviour closest to humans but have none of the human capabilities and advantages of being able to think, plan, reflect and communicate. Rape, murder, warfare, cannibalism, infanticide, jealousy, grief, sorrow, anger, possessiveness and selfish cunning have all been documented in chimpanzee behaviour. Of course, chimps don’t have the ability to rationalize these emotions and actions, it is entirely normal for them.
Only human beings are capable of rationalizing these actions and instinctual passion as being the result of Evil or ‘wrong’ thinking and thus stubbornly ignore the fact that their behaviour and emotions are the result of exactly the same genetically-encoded instinctual passions as is evident in chimpanzees.
RESPONDENT: If that is part of the natural order of all things ... then maybe we would all be better off being a little more unnatural.
PETER: Exactly my point.
It is time for human beings to stop being ‘natural’, or frantically trying to be Super Natural, and get stuck into doing something completely unnatural – ridding themselves of their social identity and instinctual self such that they become totally free of malice and sorrow.
The first essential step in this process is to stop blindly following the socially-instilled, and universally believed, escapist fantasy of praying to mythical Gods, or trying to become Gods.
RESPONDENT: Regardless of what we define as natural or unnatural, it seems to me that it is of crucial importance how we are living in the world. I don’t see any reason that a human being would ever want to participate in destructive actions even if they are natural.
PETER: Nobody ‘wants’ to participate in destructive actions – we are all programmed with an instinctual survival and propagation program that is primary, automatic and ruthless efficient in nature. Human beings with their ability to think about and be aware of their own mortality, have turned this program into psychological and psychological ‘self’-centred will to survive. Thus, not only are we programmed with instinctual passions, we will do anything to hold on to them for they are an integral part of ‘me’, the psychological and psychic entity that is ‘who’ I think I am and ‘who’ I instinctively feel myself to be.
RESPONDENT: If you realize that ‘goodness’ is possible, it seems like the most natural thing in the world is to want to do whatever you can to make sure that the actions of your life are an expression of that possibility.
PETER: The morals and ethics instilled by our peers do a reasonable sort of job in keeping the lid on the worst of the savage passions. Humans are often filled with guilt and shame for doing wrong and being bad, unless they happen to feel it is justified of course. Human beings have also managed to organize police forces, laws, courts, prisons and armies so as to keep a tolerable veneer of law and order in many countries. Fervent religious and spiritual minded people, however, literally take a ride on their tender passions whereby they think and feel themselves to be morally superior to other human beings and therefore have risen ‘above’ any evil and wrongdoing – as in holier than thou.
Up until now being good was the best one could be while remaining normal, unless one follows the traditional/spiritual religious path to becoming holy and Divine and thus feel and imagine oneself to be liberated from the perceived Evil of the physical world.
RESPONDENT: In the end does it really matter if we accept ego as an inherent part of being human or reject it as the enemy of perfection? We should do whatever leads us to live in such away that we couldn’t possibly be making a more positive contribution to the world.
PETER: The traditional religious/ spiritual viewpoint is but firmly based on ancient ignorance and superstition as to what in fact causes malice and sorrow in humans. These religious/ spiritual beliefs not only perpetuate but actively contribute to conflict and despair in the world, as is evidenced by the appalling litany of ongoing religious wars, crusades, tortures, persecutions, bigotry, perversions, repression, recriminations, prejudices, retributions, unliveable morals and pious ethics.
RESPONDENT: My own experience has been that being watchful for ego, in the form of self-centredness, has liberated me to act more in accordance with what I see as being right.
PETER: In the Eastern Religions the mind is seen as ‘the problem’, and a puerile belief-system and associated torturous practices have evolved over centuries, deliberately aimed at stifling and eradicating sensible thought, such that imagination and impassioned feelings are given absolute free reign. A common theme in all ashrams, temples and Sanghas is that, as a devotee, you are admonished to ‘leave your mind at the door, surrender your will, and trust your feelings’. This stifling of the mind has left much of the East wallowing in poverty, ignorance, repression, suppression, corruption, superstition, fatalism, subjugation, acceptance, servitude, despotism, and theocratic rule. That these Ancient traditions and wisdoms are still practiced is witness only to the desperation of those seeking freedom, peace and happiness and obviously has nothing to do with the sagacity or success of the belief-system.
In the Buddhist tradition, there have been, at the very least, 1 billion followers over the centuries, and Ken Wilber estimates that no more than one thousand have achieved Enlightenment – the Altered State of Consciousness that masquerades as freedom. This is a success rate of 0.0001% – and the failed rest dutifully believe that they get recycled to suffer earthly existence again and again until they eventually manage to achieve freedom from the cycle of birth and death – the wheel of misery. ‘There is always next lifetime’ is a common refrain. What a depressive and oppressive mindless belief-system.
RESPONDENT: In fact I have seen with my own eyes that I can be very destructive when I allow myself to be carried by the unending desires of the ego.
PETER: May I suggest that what you are experiencing are your own feelings and emotions arising from your instinctual passions and not, as is commonly believed in spiritual circles, ‘the unending desires of the ego’. ‘Wrong’ thinking doesn’t cause war, murder, despair and suicide – normal flesh and blood human beings endowed with genetically-encoded instinctual passions do. There is now a chance for those who want ‘to live in such away that we couldn’t possibly be making a more positive contribution to the world’ to actually do so, but the price to pay is beyond what is considered natural– ‘self’-immolation.
I do know it is extraordinary to consider that everyone has got it 180 degrees wrong but it does explain why, after thousands of years of well-meaning effort by billions of people, there is still not anything remotely resembling peace and harmony between human beings on the planet.
When one realizes that the suffering human beings inflict on each other, and the deep despair and hopelessness many feel, can now be eradicated, and not simply accepted as unchangeable or as an essential part of some perverse Divine plan, then one is personally challenged to actually do something about it.
Peter’s Text ©The Actual Freedom Trust: 1997-. All Rights Reserved.