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Ego Death, Rebirth & Intuition

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At the mystical core of all modern religions is an idea of the transcendent or non-Dual nature of the universe, an interconnected oneness or monism commonly called the divine, or more secular terminology as the common consciousness or source. This aspect of belief is consistent in ancient cultures worldwide from mesoamerican Aztecs, Mayans and pre-Inca, Hindu, Sikh, Buddhist and Taoist traditions and through aspects in many of the lesser known metaphysical traditions worldwide. This non-Dual attitude asserts that we were not born biologically per se, but conceptually through the creation of our personal identity and with it, our self agenda of survival. The ego is born through layers of self identity given to us by our parents and peers to begin with, then later we author these ourselves through influential cultural and social filters.

This ego retains a distinction between self and the other and operates from a single, detached perspective. As our psychology develops out of the magical and mystical stages and into the rational stages, we identify available labels that can bolster our layers of self-identity, whilst also attracting towards larger group egos which morph our self-agenda with additional concepts such as human values, political ideologies, sports teams, national identity, social status and so on. This conceptual creation brings with it an elaborate form of ego survival through protection mechanisms which look to point out potential dangers shown towards our chosen concepts and we naturally express bias towards those ideas, people or beliefs where we identify our selected conceptual values or labels. This ego game relinquishes much energy in order to protect the identity in order to survive.

Spirituality at its core works in contrast to the elaboration of ego and at its extreme can even resolve ego and the layers of identity towards a state called non-Duality or one of its synonyms: capital T truth, enlightenment, nirvana, oneness, fifth dimensionality, gnosis mind, supermind or total spiritual liberation.

In mainstream western culture, conversation on ego-death is as elusive as biological death. Wherever there is a hard sale of ego-death, it’s generally received by a very small number of seriously dedicated spiritual practitioners and deemed dangerous by all agenda driven ego structures, especially mainstream society.

While the extremes of ego-identity and the contrasting spiritual goals of Oneness have been explained above, the intention of this article is in understanding the individual layers of identity, and especially where specific layers may be the cause of a personal anxiety or blockage, what we can do to remove these blockages and how we can integrate to better understand our new identity, and look forward to what can come next.

Many people know the term ego-death from Joseph Campbell's description of The Hero's Journey. His book The Hero with a Thousand Faces described the foundational elements of a continuous story that is being told again and again throughout our history. This journey, being a mythological and archetypal transition of death and rebirth, defines self-surrender as a necessary phase towards the actualisation of the hero. After such ego-death the hero returns to share his discoveries with the world. This death or surrender is the process by which one detaches from an aspect or several aspects of their own identity, a so-called "stripping away" of ego-defenses. After which, the detached part of them is said to have passed away or transcended.

Certain layers of egoic buy-in may give us a sense of inclusion to a group, watching a popular television series for example, a person who chooses a particular fashion or fits in with a crowd whose individuals are connected through similar behaviours or attitudes. Each of these associations brings with it an aspect of protection and contributes to our behavioural attitudes where we typically defend the group thinking or opinions of the group which have accepted us.

Through life we also naturally pass away from these levels of identity as we fall out of the influence of certain group mindedness, usually due to situational circumstances that are leading bigger influences such as changing jobs, going to university, moving abroad, getting married etc. We accept these losses as they are traded by more desirable identities. Most people do not listen to the music that they enjoyed when they were in their early teens, so we know what coming away from labels of identity consists of when we upgrade our tastes to more sophisticated ones and develop ourselves towards more desirable peer groups, but we don’t necessarily associate the same transition when we are not prepared with a better alternative.

One of the biggest causes of spiritual acknowledgement or awakening in modern society comes to us at a point in our lives where a large part of our identity is shed from us without our choosing. When a loved one passes away, an injury or disease blocks our intended future or any other unexpected turn wipes our projected goals from the map and leaves us with a vacuum of loss which we find initially overbearing on our emotions. Something in this loss calls out to our perspective to stand back and re-evaluate the bigger picture and our part within it. In this bigger picture we identify a plurality, a multiplex of life’s potential direction and we are staggered in our steps as a new, unfamiliar path of uncertainty rolls out in front of us.

This uncertainty gives us a golden opportunity to reinvent ourselves into a new form or personality and this is the stage where rebirth is possible. The blank canvas that has been stripped of its narrative is ripe for neural reprogramming and this time we get to rewrite a section of ourselves upon the terms in which we choose. Often during sacred plant medicine ceremonies this is exactly what is presented, the old is wiped, we sense the fragility of the new and innocent and we walk away with a spaciousness that we get to fill on our conditions. If one is able to recognise the opportunity of this mental reconfiguration then the potential in the psychotherapy of plant medicines will take a step forward in its already complex capacity to rewrite, renew, rebirth and extend the limited possibilities with which we currently understand as the linear life predicament.

All aspects of ego-death have a similar mourning sensation of loss or abandonment, of a lifelong opportunity that’s fallen through our fingers. We know the feeling. However, this is what ego-death feels like when we are not in control, it’s dis-empowering. If we take personal responsibility for the changes, identify the opportunity in stripping our egoic identity then we will find a new motivation and energy for our forward direction. Take for example, the difference between being kicked out of your profession and of leaving on your own accord because you decided that you wanted to explore a different field? Now, the same opportunity can be had with either circumstance, but we can be gutted from the inside if we are not aware how the egoic identity sets to protect itself. This protection is primitive and usually provides a false sense of security. So the answer to the above question is one about attitude, the attitude of acceptance, that through our lives we will undergo many changes of development. The more experiences we have, the more information we will accumulate in order to achieve a higher perspective and a broader, more liberated experience of life. All spiritual liberation comes from the death or passing away of presumed states of identity, accept the progress as divine and you will tread a lighter path on your way to wisdom.

There are attempts to understand psychological development as we shift from a linear rational mind into the multiplex or psychedelic (literally ‘mind-manifesting’) plural mindset, embracing once again the magic and mystical elements of our first 7 years of life. Ken Wilber has done a great deal in bringing in many psychological developmental models to access the expected life journey of the mental experience. In these models, the rational mindset is expected to subside by the age of 35 into a higher-mind, or integral stage of spiritual ability and subtlety that goes on to include psychic and intuitive stages before the non-dual supermind or overmind is achieved from the ages of 45 and upwards. See Wilber’s Integral theory or one of his books for more on this.

Without going too deep, I’d like to discuss which parts of our egoic identity we need to part with in order to establish a stability in our spiritual practice and... how do we go about the removal and integration once we recognise what we’d like to shift? The important aspects of this shift usually take care of themselves as a by-product of stepping into plurality. When we entertain a broader perspective the associated effects of clinging dissipate and we’re no longer beholden by defending our ground. An effect of this shift is seen behavioural changes as the symptoms that were accumulated in holding these ideas as aspects of our personality also drop away.

As previously discussed, it is standard in our society not to choose the re-routing and pluralisation of our egoic identity, however, one is able to learn from meditation and other dedicated spiritual practices the gradual phase of shifting into this higher capacity of mindset. One of the most effective ways is to shift towards intuition, or heart-aligned decision making.
Higher spiritual ability is absolutely based upon a heightened mindset that is not locked into any one expected path or outcome, in these circumstances imagination becomes more important than knowledge and the mystical opens before us as once cited by Albert Einstein.

There’s a natural and intuitive progression of behavioural changes that will adapt in order to make way for the larger mind-set, although we’ll need one step on the ladder first in order to allow these to begin. Short of the aforementioned circumstances that blindside us and leave us winded, there’s a much gentler way to side step into the intuitive space. An acute awareness of feeling into the current situation around us. Awareness of the present moment is literally the key to the first step, it seems so elementary that people are sometimes unable to grasp the simplicity of the concept. Stop for a second and sense what is happening to your whole body, what do your feet feel like? How do the backs of your hands feel? There is so much information pulsating through your senses in any given moment that your body is synonymous with a sophisticated weather station. What do you think trillions of variables a second are there for? What could be the job of having such a sensitive array of equipment? What if we tune in and listen to it?

Working on our intuition prises open the rigid and it lets in the soft and ethereal sensory information that we’ve otherwise ignored, purely because we’ve never been in a discussion of the value in doing so. Once we are trained in the subtle perceptions of energy, we can begin to write our own sense emotions, we can literally sense any situation we bring our mind to. Enjoying a coffee in a crowded Polish cafe in 1920 Warsaw or tangling in a life-long relationship with an image of a long-lost partner shimmering like sunlight through a window. Maybe not everyone is entertained by ideas of persuasive day dreaming but the ability is synonymous with creativity and innovation. It also bolsters us in times of the unexpected and softens the blow of severe life changes.

If it’s a total shock to hear that the average human mind will go multiplex by the ages of 35 and up, then don’t worry, there are many guides that are here to navigate you in the right direction and explain some simple personal practices that can take you well into your intuitive mind-set.

A cacao ceremony switches the mental perspective and brings you into the symphonic hall of the heart. A little grounding and consideration to the subtle flutterings and the significance will slowly come out of the shadows and whisper lightly into your ear. Once you recognise the connection it’s yours to take home and connect to in willing meditation or by surprise in slumber. Turning into spirituality is like finding romance, it explores areas of sense and emotion that you didn’t realise before was possible. Taking this relationship with you as you mature removes the worries of loneliness as heightening the significance of internal introspection or ‘cultivating internal happiness’ provides a labyrinthian playground for you to ever explore.

The reason that Campbell’s Hero’s Journey strikes a chord is that it is exactly how we develop through our life if we are somewhat connected with the natural systems around us and we take notice of what’s going on in the current moment. All of our collected identity will detach at given points during our natural life, some aspects more noticeable than others, we will rewrite ourselves over and over in a cycle of death and rebirth until mental activity is not associated with ego, but the transpersonal non-duality of advanced spiritual states.