Sunday, May 13, 2007

New Age Guff

Spot the individual

Recently I stumbled onto a neo-viking website - some sort of men's lib organisation in which members reconnect with their inner heathen. Someone had written a piece about the ego, and what a relief it had been for him to find a spirituality that didn't "buy into all that New Age, Buddhist guff about dissolving one's ego in the Supreme Being" and celebrated the passionate individuality epitomised by the adventurous Viking spirit. He felt that ego-dissolution was a form of slavery. "The Vikings had gods that didn't expect humans to be their slaves, but inspired them be individuals."
The idea that Non-duality is tantamount to slavery, is a common Western misconception. It is not the ego that makes a person unique. The ego is an amalgam of attachments, to the body, the senses, possessions and actions, etc. The permutations and combinations of these attachments differ from person to person, but essentially people tend to be attached to the same things. So it is not ego that makes a person a unique individual, quite the opposite, ego makes people banal but creates an illusion of uniqueness. The ego doesn't make people dynamic, it drains them of energy.
A person should be original, passionate, dynamic and emancipated, but there is no owner of these qualities, they are spontaneous expressions of the universe.
The idea of non-dual selfhood is not specifically 'Eastern' but is found in many cultures all over the world. It is not a 'New Age' idea but dates back thousands of years.
Having said this, it is worth remembering that ego-less saints, such as Jnaneshwara, have often said that the very idea of ego-dissolution, or enlightenment, can itself be an obstacle to Selfhood, a concept that itself becomes an attachment. After all, there is no such thing as ego: no ego to be dissolved, no ego preventing enlightenment.

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