I and ego

I and Ego, Not Perfect, But Necessary

“Let us then begin at the beginning and remind ourselves of a few of the trite and primary facts which all practical persons agree to ignore. That beginning, for human thought, is of course the I, the Ego, the self-conscious subject which is writing this book, or the other self-conscious subject which is reading it; and which declares, in the teeth of all arguments, I AM. Here is a point as to which we all feel quite sure. No metaphysician has yet shaken the ordinary individual’s belief in his own existence. The uncertainties only begin for most of us when when we ask what else is.

“To this ‘I,’ this conscious self ‘imprisoned in the body like an oyster in his shell,’ come, as we know, a constant stream of messages and experiences. Chief among these are the stimulation of the tactile nerves whose result we call touch, the vibrations taken up by the optic nerve which we call light, and those taken up by the ear and perceived as sound.

“What do these experiences mean? The first answer of the unsophisticated Self is, that they indicative of the nature of the external world. …It is immediately apparent, however, that this sense-world, this seemingly real external universe, –though it may be useful and valid in other respects—cannot be the external world, but only the Self’s projected picture of it.” ~Evelyn Underhill

The I and Ego

Underhill has it correct. At least when it comes to physical life on earth. Our first hint of conscious thought is always I. That is to say that when we first start thinking, everything is seen and felt as it relates to us. We have no other point of reference but Self. That ego, which so many silly schools have deemed something superfluous that needs to be destroyed, is something we are born with. It is also something we will die with. It cannot be totally destroyed, and those who waste much time trying to will make little spiritual progress. Yet this concept continues to be promoted. Why? Because it benefits the government, that’s why. It doesn’t benefit the individual who loses all interest in accomplishment of any sort. It doesn’t benefit his spirit and soul if he becomes indifferent to what happens to him. But it does benefit governments. It makes sheep out of people, the so-called sheeple. Governments love sheeple. They don’t rock the boat. They don’t protest. They do what the government tells them to do. They do what the corporations who own the government tell them to do. That is why the destruction of the ego is promoted. It is not a spiritual thing at all.

The World of Senses

Yes, the world of the physical senses is the world of I and Ego. But Ego is more than just interpreting the information coming from the senses. It is also the desire to know, to learn, to grow. Take away ego, or greatly suppress it, and you have no desire to grow, to change yourself, or to make the world a better place.

The world of the physical senses may be limited, yet important. We may not like it, but we do live in the physical world, and we must function in it. That means we have to use the physical senses, even if they are limited. Of course, what we know of the physical world doesn’t come primarily from those senses. It comes from the brain’s interpretation of the senses. It is in those interpretations that many fantasies become reality to us.

Beyond Ego and Senses

But the physical senses are not the only we have. We are also equipped with spiritual senses, though we rarely use them. That is because they don’t communicate with the brain, but with the soul instead. If the soul has not been awakened, then those senses are unused. Even when awakened, what they experience may not be communicated to the conscious mind. Exceptions sometimes occur through intuition. But the development of our spiritual faculties can increase the level of that communication. Of course, it does need that much-maligned ego to communicate with.

I and Ego Summary

I and Ego may be all about the physical world, but in a sense, our spirit and soul live in our physical body. So while we dwell here, I and Ego are necessary. You might be able to do without them if you completely withdraw and become a hermit or a monk. Otherwise, you have to function in the material world as well as the physical. I and Ego make it possible to do so. The ego must be controlled—preferably by your own soul—but it is needed.

illuminated consciousness

Illuminated Consciousness – The Mystic’s Goal

“In Illumination we come to the state of consciousness which is popularly supposed to be peculiar to the mystic: a form of mental life, a kind of perception, radically different from that of ‘normal’ men. His preceding adventures and experiences cannot be allowed the quality. His awakening to the consciousness of the Absolute—though often marked by a splendor and intensity which seem to distinguish it from other psychic upheavals of that kind—does but reproduce upon higher levels those characteristic processes of conversion and falling in love which give depth and actuality to the religious and passionate life. The purification to which he then sets himself—though this possesses as a rule certain features peculiar to mystical development—is again closely related to the disciplines and mortifications of ascetic, but not necessarily mystical, piety. … Here, the mystic does but adopt in a more dramatic form the principles which all who would live with an intense life, all seekers after freedom, all true lovers must accept. … The mystic has now a veritable foothold in that transcendental world into which they penetrate now and again.” ~Evelyn Underhill

Illuminated Consciousness

There are many interpretations of what constitutes illumination. There are probably even more about what consciousness is. Underhill here puts the two together and defines it quite simply: illuminated consciousness is that which is “peculiar to the mystic”. That might be a good definition if we were were all familiar with mystics and mysticism. Today, however, few are. For our purposes, we will keep it simple and say that a mystic is one who devotes his life to spiritual development. Real spiritual development, not just the basic first step of meditation.

A major part of spiritual development is the attainment of higher states of consciousness. How many levels of consciousness there are is a matter of conjecture. But we can say that we can’t consider ourselves at all illuminated until we climb to a level of consciousness where we understand the spiritual nearly as well as the physical. These higher states are radically different because they reveal the reality of the physical world as eventually illusion. The further reveal the spiritual realms, which are real and permanent.

Awakening Consciousness

The illuminated consciousness isn’t something that we actually awaken. What we do awaken is the soul. It is through the awakening and developing of the soul that we gain access to higher levels of consciousness. The consciousness itself is always awake and always will be.

Different levels of consciousness are basically different frequencies of energy. To reach higher levels, you need more energy. You get that higher-frequency energy from the spiritual sun. There is more to it than that, of course, but that is the first rule. More energy, more growth. The more high-frequency energy, the more illuminated consciousness you can access. And as you reach those higher levels of consciousness more regularly, it soon becomes permanent.

Religious and Passionate Life

Underwood being a very religious person naturally speaks of this achievement of illuminated consciousness as religious life. Most people today would think of it as more of spiritual life. We could also say that it is the life of a mystic, but that term is also frowned upon today. But despite the fact that many practicing today’s new-age type of spirituality are opposed to religion and often the ancient mystery schools as well, spirituality is both a part of real religion and mysticism.

Ascetic Piety

Ms. Underhill says the spiritual student who can achieve illuminated consciousness does so with methods that are similar to those of an ascetic. That may be true to some degree, but being an ascetic is not what awakens the soul. Rejecting material possessions, eating a limited and simple diet, avoiding excess of all sorts may help, but with limits. One can have material possessions as long as he doesn’t become too attached to them. There are many things that can be of some help in spiritual growth. The more we use, the more likely we are to succeed.


Self-Awareness in All Beings

“Are we to think that a being knowing itself must contain diversity, that self-knowledge can be affirmed only when some one phase of the self perceives other phases, and that therefore an absolutely simplex entity would be equally incapable of introversion and of self-awareness?

“No. A being that has no parts or phases may have this consciousness; in fact there would be no real self-knowing in an entity presented as knowing itself in virtue of being a compound—some single element in it perceiving other elements—as we may know our own form and entire bodily organism by sense perception: such knowing does not cover the whole field; the knowing element has not had the required cognizance at once of its associates and of itself; this is not the self-knower asked for; it is merely something that knows something else.” ~Plotinus


Plotinus is asking a common question that plagues philosophers and other even today. That simple question is this: How do we know ourselves? The typical answer is that we have two “selves”, and one knows the other. Some say it is the soul that is looking at the mind. Others say it is the subconscious mind observing the conscious mind. Either way, it is one part of us looking at another part. Plotinus is saying that if that is correct, then we really don’t know ourselves at all. We know the self that is observed by the “other”, but what of this other that is observing? Is that our true self? Are both the one observing and the one being observed our self? It does get confusing. If one part is always the observer, and the other part, the observed, then only the part that is observed is ever known. That part which observes is never known.

Another theory is that the observer is universal consciousness, while the observed is the individual mind or ego. This theory makes the most sense to me. The universal consciousness would naturally be able to observe the individual, but the individual would not be able to observe the all. It is much like saying God can know us even though we don’t really know much about God.

A Singular Being

Plotinus says that a simple being with a simplex nature can’t have one nature that observes the other. This means, according to most, that such beings cannot have any self-awareness. Plotinus disagrees with this. He says that even a simple creature that doesn’t have those two “selves” that can look at each other, can still be self-aware. Until recently, science denied this.

Science has always said that animals cannot have any self-awareness. They can feel pain, they can react to the world around them, but they are no aware. But in the last few decades, we have learned a lot about animals that is surprising these scientists. In terms of self-awareness, there have been several cases that have shown that animals do have it. At least some of the more advanced ones do.

In one case, an elephant is seen reacting to its reflection in a mirror. We laugh at dogs and cats that do this and think it is another animal they see in the mirror. That, however, is exactly what the scientists expect. An understanding that is is a reflection of themselves implies a degree of understanding what “self” is. You have to have some self-awareness to understand that what is in the mirror is yourself. The elephant that was observed reacted as expected, at first. He thought it was a different animal. But after some experimental movements and gestures, the elephant became aware that the reflection in the mirror copied his movements. It was clear that he soon realized it was himself, and lost interest. That is self-awareness.

Having Fun

While I haven’t heard a scientific opinion on this, it is my personal belief that an animal that clearly likes to have fun must have a certain degree of self-awareness. An animal might find that activity brings it joy, but without awareness, it could not understand that repeating the same activity would have the same result. Yet many examples of animals having fun are available.

In one that amazed many, a crow is seen enjoying sliding on a roof. The crow carries a jar lid to the top of the roof, jumps in it, then slides down. He repeats that activity several times.


He is having fun, he is aware of it. This one was also amazing because it demonstrated a crow using a tool: the jar lid. Until recently, using tools was supposed to be one of the things that separated man from animals. Now we are finding examples of animals using tools, do that idea must be rethought as well.

Another popular example shows a dog sliding on a hill. She carries the sled to the top of the hill, jumps on it, and slides down. Repeating the activity several times and is clearly enjoying it. She is aware that the activity is giving her joy. That is self-awareness.


In a similar activity with a dog, we see one that is having great fun with a machine that throws a tennis ball. This dog not only chases the mechanically thrown ball, but carries it back, drops it back in the machine, and jumps around in anticipation waiting for the machine to throw it again. This dog is not only reacting with joy to what has happened, but he is also reacting with joy to what he is expecting to happen in the future! That is definitely self-awareness, even if somewhat more limited than human self-awareness.


Self-Awareness in Plants

I guess the question that remains now is do plants have any self-awareness? Obviously, plants have a much lower level of consciousness than animals. That would imply that if they do have any self-awareness, it is much less than animals. But I don’t think we can rule it out entirely. Since one theory of self-awareness is that it is the universal consciousness that is observing the individual consciousness, that universal consciousness must be observing plants as well as humans and animals. And there is evidence that such limited self-awareness does exist. Recent studies have shown that when a tree is attacked by plant disease, it sends out a chemical warning to other trees in the area so they can build up their protection and avoid getting the same illness. Now it can be argued that it is simply a reaction by the plant with no actual awareness involved. But we don’t really know for sure. And all life is part of that one Universal Consciousness.

resurrection of Bacchus

Resurrection of Bacchus as a Spiritual Allegory

“While Apollo most generally represents the sun, Bacchus is also a form of solar energy, for his resurrection was accomplished with the assistance of Apollo. The resurrection of Bacchus signifies merely the extraction or disentanglement of the various parts of the Bacchic constitution from the Titanic constitution of the world. This is symbolized by the smoke or soot rising from the burned bodies of the Titans. The soul is symbolized by smoke because it is extracted by the fire of the Mysteries. Smoke signifies the ascension of the soul, for evolution is the process of the soul rising, like smoke, from the divinely consumed material mass. At this time, the Bacchic Rites were of a high-order, but later they became much degraded.” ~Manly P. Hall

Apollo and Bacchus

I don’t know where Hall got this version of the resurrection of Bacchus. It differs from the traditional one, but is in line with the teachings of most mystery schools. If nothing else, this tells us Bacchus was an important “god” in the ancient pantheon. He would not have been helped by Apollo otherwise.

The Resurrection of Bacchus

Based on what Mr. hall says about the resurrection of Bacchus indicates that it is an allegory for the rebirth of the soul. Many tales of gods being resurrected, or reborn, are. The phoenix rising from it’s ashes is also an allegory of this process. But the good news is you don’t have to burn up your body in order for your soul to awaken. Like Bacchus, your soul can be resurrected by Apollo. In other words, your soul can be awakened by the light of the spiritual sun, which Apollo represents.


The spiritual development process represented by the resurrection of Bacchus is aided by getting rid of attachments to the material world. That doesn’t mean that we can’t own and material comforts. It just means that we don’t want to get too attached to them. Each thing we are attached to is like an anchor holding us down. Not in a literal sense, but holding us down to lower levels of consciousness. Spiritual beings like angels operate at higher levels of consciousness. If we wish to communicate with them, we must raise our own level of consciousness as much as possible. So the fewer things we have holding us back, the better.

Burned Titans

The legend of the Titans being destroyed by the Olympians, who become the new ruling gods, is another allegory. The Titans represent the material world and the physical body. In this tale, the Olympians represent the spirit and soul. So this tale represents spirit and soul overcoming and defeating the material. But once again, it isn’t necessary to actually destroy the physical body or the ego. It is only necessary that they be controlled by the spirit and soul. That, of course, can only happen if the spirit and soul have been awakened by Apollo, that is, the spiritual sun.

Rising Smoke

I can understand why rising smoke symbolized the soul, yet I think it is not a good symbol for it. Smoke is often dark and smells bad. The soul is full of light, and if it had a scent, would be that of exotic tropical flowers. This symbol does make sense when the soul is rising from a dead body, but not when it is rising from intentional spiritual practices by a living person. A light leaving the head, or a beam of light going upward would make more sense.

Soul Evolution

Mr. Hall is certainly correct is saying that real evolution is all about the soul rising to higher levels. The development of a denser and denser physical body, as we have been doing for centuries, is devolution, not evolution. Soul evolution is human evolution. It is the goal of all real spiritual schools and mystery schools. It is necessary in order for the entire planet to transform back into spirit. Everything must transform at the same time or die. As we transform (or evolve), so does the planet. Those who cling to materialism and refuse to evolve will die. Not out of punishment, but because they will not be able to live in the changed world. The resurrection of Bacchus must happen to each of us.

Click here for more about Apollo. Click here for additional information about Bacchus.