Inner  Frontier
Fourth Way Spiritual Practice

 

Inner Work


For the week of September 13, 2021


The Evolution of Will 2

From Me Toward I

(The Spiritual Ecosystem: 5)

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What does evolution need from us? If we feel a call to a greater life, what could that mean? What are we drawn toward? Those who hear this call each come to it with their own uniqueness, their own set of abilities and potentialities, their own strengths and their own limitations. But somehow, impossibly, we are called to transcend all limitations. We aim for nothing less.

Spiritually, our one serious limitation is the narrowness of our view, our sharply circumscribed sense of self: the unquestioned belief that who we are stops at our skin. This is called egoism. Spiritual and religious traditions teach us that egoism is the major roadblock between us and the Sacred. Egoism is an aberration of will in which the will revolves around and solely serves our narrow self, our supposed ego. To ego, everything is about me. Things, people, and events only matter insofar as they affect me, for good or ill. My thoughts and feelings claim to come from my ego. When my thoughts say I, they are referring to my ego, my pseudo I. My actions serve me. Life is about me.

But because this ego has no inherent reality, is empty in its core, it leaves me perpetually, though unsuccessfully, trying to prove, both to myself and others, that I exist, that I am something. Indeed, this is the major concern of ego: not to be exposed for the empty shell that it is. To build itself up, to enhance its veneer of solidity is the driving purpose of ego. But it is empty, a set of mental and emotional assumptions, attitudes, and patterns that point to a something that does not exist, that fool me into believing that I am what my ego claims, a separate self. It fools me into believing in my greed, jealousy, anger, envy, criticism, and all the other self-centered features in their many forms. If I look carefully for that separate self, however, I will not find it because it does not exist.

Yet even after directly seeing the truth of its illusory existence, even after my beliefs in it are punctured, the consequences of decades of ego continue to reverberate in the old attitudes and patterns revolving around a self that I know does not exist. Still, that truth allows the light to begin to shine, the light of the Sacred that heals and purifies and calls us to a greater life. Thus begins the release of will from the narrowly personal view, enabling my will to move back toward its Source, the Self that includes all. Can I come to consider important what benefits humanity or my neighbor, consider that to be equally or more important than what benefits me?

This determination of what is important is one of the hidden actions of our will. What matters to me, what my priorities are, comes from my will. If my will is wrapped up in my ego self, then I act from my small, egocentric world view. To the extent the will in me is free from my ego, I can live for the benefit of others, as well as myself. This is the evolutionary challenge, to extract my will from my ego.

No simple matter this. I need to be willing to see myself more objectively, see the self-centered impulses, emotions, and thoughts coursing through my being. I need to see that all that is driven by a lie, an illusion, a mistaken view of who I am, a lie that uses the full power of my mind and emotions to perpetuate itself. I need to be willing to give this up and to not act from my egocentric attitudes. This is a deep and ongoing effort, taking all my insight and intelligence, all my heartfelt need for liberation, all my search to understand what is called for.

A couple of practices can help with this. First, from time to time, allow yourself to be imposed upon. See the inner grumbling this may bring, realize that it emanates from your egoism, and instead of buying into it, enter and stay in presence. Second, bear the unpleasant manifestations of others. See the inner criticism this may bring, realize that it emanates from your egoism, and instead of buying into it, enter and stay in presence.[1]

But all our efforts to see and let go, though absolutely necessary, will not fully resolve the problem. We need to ask for help from the Sacred. We need to allow a force greater than ourself, a benign and loving force, to purify us through and through. As that happens, a renewed and greater life begins to open.

For this week, please look again into yourself. See whether and to what extent there is egoism there, to what extent you are separate from others, separate from the Sacred. See this in operation in your thoughts, emotions, attitudes, and world view.

[1] The first of these practices is from Sufi sources and the second from Gurdjieff.


     

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