Advice, Bad Ideas, Buddhahood, Consciousness, Enlightenment, Human Nature, Life, Living, Love, Mysticism, Pride, Quality of Life, Satori, Self, Self-Integration, Spirituality, Wisdom

Is Abolishing the Ego a Bad Idea?

(About a 2 minute read)

Quite often, people tell me they want to attain nirvana, mosksha, kenshō, or enlightenment by abolishing their ego or “lower self”.  But I’m not sure that’s such a good idea.  At least not on the face of it.

I think I can see where they are coming from though.  In popular speech, the “ego” is synonymous with our pride.  Pride is quite often a source of foolishness, and can easily enough be seen as wholly unnecessary.  After all, pride isn’t exactly the same thing as self-esteem.  To many people “pride” is excessive or unjustified self-esteem.

But I see the ego as much bigger than pride — and much more important, too.  To me, the ego is the psychological self.  The self we think of as “me” or “I”.  In other words, I use the word in it’s original Latin sense.  Moreover, I do not believe pride can be abolished without abolishing the ego.

As I understand things, it is impossible to wholly abolish the ego.  I profoundly agree with Joseph Campbell that the powers within us we deny or repress do not wither and die.  Instead, they become our demons.

So, I think efforts to abolish the ego end up creating monsters.

Beyond that, the ego — or psychological self — strikes me as quite useful to us.  In fact, I can’t see anyone surviving for long without it.  Near as I can figure it, the ego is key to at least a dozen functions that are themselves both useful and vitally important to our survival.

I won’t go into them here other than to mention those functions include foresight, planning, self-defense, and many forms of motivation.  In sum, I do not believe it wise or beneficial to abolish the ego.  Or even try.  Instead, one’s objective should be to tame it through wisdom and/or love.

Art, Enlightenment, Eudaimonia, Free Spirit, Human Nature, Life, Living, Meaning, Music, Passion, Purpose, Quality of Life, Religion, Satori, Self, Spiritual Alienation, Spirituality, Transformative Experience, Truth, Well Being, Wisdom

The Lyrics of “The River”, by John Andrew Hull (Manchester Orchestra)

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY: Paul offers his personal interpretation of a few of the words to John Andrew Hull’s intimate, spiritual song, “The River”.

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THE CRITICS EXPLODE: “Quite obvious to this astute blog critic, Paul Sunstone’s allegedly ‘personal interpretations’ of ‘The River’ are anything but genuinely personal. Sunstone channels the Devil himself to offer his readers purely demonic views that he then shamelessly fobs off as his own. To his claim ‘The River’ is grounded in a ‘Timeless Truth of Human Nature’, I am forced to retort: Timeless Sunstone!” —  Merriweather Sterling, Blogs of the Day, “The Daily Burtie”, Berwick-Upon-Tweed, England, UK.

Continue reading “The Lyrics of “The River”, by John Andrew Hull (Manchester Orchestra)”

Belief, Consciousness, Cultural Traits, Culture, Enlightenment, God, God(s), Human Nature, Ideas, Intuition, Knowledge, Mysticism, Observation, Religion, Satori, Self, Self-Integration, Self-Realization, Spirituality, Transformative Experience

What Do Mystics Mean by “God”?

“Theologians may quarrel, but the mystics of the world speak the same language.” ― Meister Eckhart

SUMMARY:  Mystics naturally speak of the experience that distinguishes them from other folks using words and terms derived from their individual cultures.  Hence, they typically speak of having experienced “god”, but upon examination, their notions of god often tend to have more in common with other mystics than they do with common cultural notions of god.  Central to virtually all theistic mysticism is the notion that god — or ultimate reality — is an all-encompassing oneness or One, despite any appearances to the contrary.

(About a 10 minute read)

I first became interested in mysticism about 40 years ago.  I was a sophomore at university and seriously concerned with finding an objective basis for values.

At the time, I believed — like many people still do — that unless an objective basis for values could be found, “anything was permissible”.  No evil, however great, could be objectively opposed.  And that frightened me.

Unfortunately, the more I learned, the less there seemed to be any possibility of an objective basis.  But then I came across the writings of various mystics.

Continue reading “What Do Mystics Mean by “God”?”

Belief, Buddhahood, Buddhism, Christianity, Consciousness, Cultural Traits, Culture, Enlightenment, Ideas, Islam, Jiddu Krishnamurti, Knowledge, Meditation, Memes, Mysticism, Religion, Religious Ideologies, Satori, Self-Integration, Spirituality, Transformative Experience, Zen

“Help! She’s Going About It All Wrong!”

SUMMARY:  The importance of having the right beliefs in order to attain spiritual enlightenment is grossly over-emphasized both in Western and Middle Eastern cultures.

(About a 5 minute read)

I have a friend who, in my esteemed opinion (esteemed by me, at least), is going about it all wrong.  By “it”, I mean spiritual enlightenment, of course.  She’s going about it all wrong.

Not that I myself am an authority on spiritual enlightenment.  The closest I ever came to it was that time I saw Terri’s breasts in the moonlight.  My friend — who is not Terri — has never shown me her breasts despite incessant hours of begging on my part and hence, I don’t know yet if she’s a reincarnation of the Chinese Goddess of Mercy, Guan Yin, or not. But even if she is, she’s going about it all wrong.

Continue reading ““Help! She’s Going About It All Wrong!””

Belief, Cultural Traits, Culture, Education, Free Spirit, Human Nature, Knowledge, Learning, Life, Living, Love, Memes, Mysticism, Quality of Life, Satori, Self-determination, Skeptical Thinking, Society, Thinking, Transformative Experience

New Eyes

SUMMARY:  A look at maximizing our freedom by freeing us from our cultural assumptions so that we might pick and choose which aspects of our culture are of value to us and which aspects are not.  Life experiences (including travel), education, love, and mystical experiences are all considered as means of freeing us.

(About a 6 minute read)

“The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes, but in having new eyes.” ― Marcel Proust

My first wife, Jana, was born in Bohemia, Czechoslovakia under the Soviet occupation.  At age 9, she escaped with her family to West Germany.  Two years later, they immigrated to the US.

Her mother and father, both being doctors, were able to send her back to Europe to attend a private Swiss boarding school for her high school education.  After high school, she lived in England for awhile, before returning to the US to attend university, where I met her.

By the time I met her, she was a confirmed traveler.  But travel was much more to her than an exciting adventure.  It was a way of learning new things, new ways of doing and thinking.  Or, as Proust might have it, travel was Jana’s way of gaining “new eyes”.

Continue reading “New Eyes”

Authenticity, Being True To Yourself, Buddhahood, Enlightenment, Goals, Human Nature, Life, Living, Love, Meaning, Mysticism, Purpose, Quality of Life, Satori, Self, Self-Integration, Self-Realization, Spirituality, Transformative Experience, Unconditional Love, Values

More to Life

SUMMARY:  Many of us at one time or another in our lives feel that life is passing us by, that we are not getting as much out of it as possible.  For most of us who feel that way, there are ready remedies in entertainment, consumerism, and so forth — at least at first.  But for others, the desire for something more cannot be solved in such ways.  In this post, I look at what I consider the ultimate solutions to the problem of wanting more from life.

(About a 9 minute read)

It’s a curious fact that when a person is down and out, they can be too down and out to want to think there is more to life than their current fate.  The thought of a better life can be too painful to contemplate under the circumstances.

But for most of us, there are times in our lives when we are discontent, profoundly discontent, and in search of something more.  That sort of feeling is usually accompanied in my experience by boredom with life as it is, and perhaps a sense it will never get much better.

At which point, many of us instinctively turn to entertainments, to consumerism, to self-improvement books and articles, to politics, or religion.  Sometimes we switch jobs, buy a bigger house, take a vacation, or even — and I have seen this happen — get married or plan children out of boredom and to escape that feeling there should be something more to life than what we have.

Continue reading “More to Life”

Attachment, Buddhahood, Buddhism, Consciousness, Cultural Traits, Culture, Emotions, Enlightenment, Human Nature, Ideas, Knowledge, Life, Living, Memes, Mysticism, Neuroscience, Psychology, Quality of Life, Religion, Satori, Science, Self, Self-Integration, Self-Knowledge, Self-Realization, Sense of Relatedness, Spirituality, Thinking, Transformative Experience

What is Spiritual Enlightenment?

(About a 9 minute read)

When I was at university, I met a woman two years older than me who seemed to me at the time to be so psychologically healthy that I had not expected people could be that “together” before I met her.  She changed not only my ideas of psychological health, but a number of my ideas of what people were and could be.

One day, she and I were talking when the topic of enlightenment came up.  I had only recently heard of the idea and I told her I wanted to find out if it was true.

“Oh, it’s real”. she said, “And it’s my life’s goal to attain it.”

I didn’t know — and I didn’t ask —  how she knew it was real.  The idea was so new to me that I had scarcely heard any evidence for it at that point.  But I did realize she was a very rational person and most likely had reasons she considered solid for believing it existed.

Continue reading “What is Spiritual Enlightenment?”