Thursday, October 25, 2018

The Pagan Ego

This is going to be a topic that will poke some buttons. Strap in.

An issue came up among my students recently. So I'm going to share my thoughts on the ego as it expresses itself in the evolving Pagan.

Most mystery schools believe (they have also found success in the application of this principle) that the ego is the largest barrier to moving energy and using one's innate paranormal powers. If you want to be a medium, you must allow your ego to be pushed aside. If you want to astral project, you must let a separation from ego happen. If you want to be a shaman, you must put yourself aside and act in the best interest of your tribe. If you want Kundalini to awaken, the ego must die.

All over the world, spiritual paths promote the management or even the outright destruction of the ego. As an evolutionary step, this makes perfect sense to me. The ego is the remnant of our instinctual programming. It is the inner voice that wants our own material needs to be met. It is why we say "I am hungry," or "I am horny." The ego is the expression of the self, seeking the pleasure and power to keep the animal continuing with as much success as possible. But it requires that we exist in our "desire body" to accomplish the directives of our egos.

People deal with ego in two ways, based on the kind of person they are. The first are those whose egos scare them. I'm one of these types myself. Perhaps we are afraid of what we might be capable if we really let our egos run the show. Perhaps we worry that we might become foolish or turn into a big spectacle. Perhaps we also worry that what we are doing is just pretend and, in the grand scheme, amounts to nothing. This kind of person gets eaten alive by the worry that he misread the signs and his religious efforts are wasted as empty gestures.

The second group deals with their egos by embracing them. They feel that their inner voice is the most important authority to which they must bend. This hat-tip to the ego is usually represented as "being authentic." Yet in these moments, there is a lack of balance as the ego gets anything it wants all the time. I've met so many "strong witches" who use the authenticity excuse to be a raging bitch. No one loves a bitchy witch.

The ego is a character with a lot of strength. It tries to assert itself at every moment. When you think you have put it in its place, it surges forward and so it needs constant discipline. I've found that the ego loves to be strong particularly in spiritual settings. It wants to feel amazing things. It wants to be the center of attention. It is capable of transforming self-worth into "vainglory." It wants us to be powerful, to be known, to be famous.

Fame is very attractive. It doesn't have to be fame from the whole country or even your town. Just the fame of a small group of friends (your coven) is enough to stroke the ego. I often see people striving hard to be famous among pagans or Wiccans. Every witch wants to be the next big pagan writer. Adonis Merlin describes these as "Sassy Swish-capes." I think it's a wonderful way to describe how melodramatically grandiose some witches can be. This makes for great theater, but horrible magic and it is annoying to be around.

Being a pagan, I have exposed myself to people and places that manifest what I can only label as supernatural. I have seen things that I would call unbelievable, but I have also seen a lot of faking.

Faking comes from the egotistic inclination to make one's life appear supernatural so one can feel special. Every ego wants to feel special, so we sometimes overact, over-react, or act blatantly fake. When people are fake, they are stroking their own egos. Witchy fakeness looks like this:

"I can see auras, you must be upset right now because I'm seeing spots of X color." (Truth: I wasn't upset at all until you tried to tell me some baloney about what I'm feeling.)

"This house is haunted. I know because I can feel spirits." (Truth: there has never been a report of a haunting in this house, ever. It was built in the 80's so it only suffers from bad interior design and an obsolete building code, not from anything supernatural.)

"I can feel the circle so strongly that I can't bring myself to walk through it." (Truth: you are a very effective performer and you should consider a career as a mime trapped inside a bubble.)

"Aries, the god of war, appeared to me through a bear I saw in the woods." (Truth: you are telling a tall tale to make yourself appear as if you are favored by the divine. You saw a bear because there are bears endemic to our woods.)

That's not to say that  people don't actually have these abilities. Rather, I'm stating that too many who don't have them claim that they do.

I should note that I have a very healthy skeptic living inside me (he's a scientist). I leverage this skeptic against my ego, which wants me to do and say nearly anything to get what I want. Unfortunately, the skeptic and the ego are forever in conflict. I'm getting better at recognizing the voice of each, but particularly my ego. There are times when its strength serves me, so I give it it's due, and other times when it just complicates matters, so I tell it to shut up. Keeping the balance is a daily game of checking in with the self and making constant adjustments.

I also leverage my love for my spirituality against my ego. I never want to lessen or debase my spirituality by polluting it with falsity, so I get offended when I find others being intentionally false in an attempt to heighten their own fame. The act of being truly authentic in any moment feels amazing. I get upset when I get grouped in with people who don't operate from a position of being authentic. I get annoyed because I don't want my own expression to be diminished or devalued by being characterized as false. But that's my own issue and I shouldn't take on the ownership of anyone else's opinion of me. I can't worry if they think I'm a fake or not. I should just do my own authentic thing, but not give my ego total control. The problem is that it's easier said than done.

As a way of exerting its power in a way that we are least likely to notice, the ego will root itself in a facet of our personalities. One can notice this by looking at one's archetype. I believe it is this ego-link that generates our overall personality archetype.

For example, my ego ties itself to logic and evidence. So my primary archetype is the scientist. All of my efforts to interact with the world are filtered through logic and evidence because my ego has decided that only those are valid. The only way I could ever feel a boost to my self worth was if I acted the scientist completely and was complimented for my knowledge, research or logic. Those compliments were like drugs to an addict for me and I just didn't feel as powerful if someone complemented me physically. This caused me quite the struggle when I entered witchcraft, because there is a quite a bit about witchcraft that flies in the face of logic and evidence.

Similarly, one could have his ego tied to body image and youthfulness (archetype: the sex symbol). The only way this person will feel a boost to the self worth would be to be physically complemented. There are also artists who tie their egos to their creativity, so they will feel completely worthless if their art is not well-received. There are also healers and nurturers who tie their egos to their care-giving, so they will feel worthless if they can't alleviate suffering.

The best way to notice how your ego is linked to a part of your inner self and boosts your self worth is to ask yourself these questions.
"What kinds of complements do I like to hear more than any other?"
"If I could be renown in my town, for what reason would it be?"

I'm not claiming that finding the answers will resolve your ego and make you the master. I do believe that this work - our witch's work - will stay with us until we die; it is the struggle of this particular incarnation. However, knowing your ego's main mechanism gives you tremendous control over it.

Ultimately, those things to which we cling, because they make us feel more valid or more valuable, are simply illusions. Validity comes from the inner self and needs no ego to validate it. Resolving the overwhelming power of the ego, so that it can be activated or deactivated when and how you wish, will unlock the deeper powers of your inner self - your witchcraft. This is what the mystery schools call "self mastery" and it can only be achieved by the difficult process of knowing thyself.