Whacking off the Ego
The thing about the ego, since it’s only a knife wielding spectre in the physical world, is that it must never be trusted. Not by you, or by anyone else. In order for you to lie to someone else, it has to lie to you first. To others, this is indistinguishable from you lying to them. Were you doing what you’re told? Or did you compel yourself to do it? Either you were in charge or just following orders. Your role in this depends on which kind of mental organization at that moment consumed the greater amount of activity in your head.
There are two predominant kinds of mental rides we modern urbanites get to experience; conscious and unconscious, which could also be called artificial and organic. The ego, in my scheme of things, is one of the conscious experiences. It is also one of the conscious operations that can operate without being experienced.
Think about yourself… that self you’re thinking about is your ego- a recreation in your conscious mind of what you know about yourself. Doing the thinking, is you the experiencer- experiencing a biological organization that is currently organized to be an animal that is thinking. Humans do this by creating third stage mental organizations that are so stable and coherent that we can depart from simply experiencing the mind to experiencing something the mind is doing. The compelling realism of that experience lends credibility to the actual existence of consciousness and the things it’s conscious of. One of those things you’re conscious of is you, the experiencer. This representation of everything you’ve added up to so far is the self in your consciousness or, your conscious self.
What is a conscious self? Not self-awareness as in knowing that you’re cold or hungry. That bit in your head that is aware of you. Picture yourself at home… There! That bit sitting in your house. Now, imagine yourself doing something you dread. There it is again! Doing something dreadful! That’s not you, it’s an artificial mental representation of you. Have a close look at it. It’s what you think you are and only you get to see it. No one else does. This internal person and the infinitely variable landscape we can put it in, are part of the inner works of our minds. Jayne’s called it the subjective I or analog I. I call it a tool. It’s something that helps us meet our survival needs and then some.
So far, we’ve only got a tricky new brain procedure that can enhance survival and makes for a dandy experience. Where it gets really interesting is when a group of animals who are all doing this trick form a community. As a successful community grows in complexity and requires more consciousness out of its membership, the realism of the conscious experience can begin to convince everyone that it is all of our conscious selves that are actually living with each other. That makes our organic selves sublimate to the needs and choices of the conscious self, which becomes the greater level of organization. When that happens, consciousness seizes identity. A unique and complex pattern of brain activity has become that which must survive. That’s an ego.
An ego is a conscious self that thinks it’s living in a world of other conscious selves. They all live together in a conscious world that transcends the physical world. A world full of glory and enlightenment that only a conscious mind would know is there.
We rely on the ego for our very survival in the kind of world we’ve chosen to live in. We haven’t always made this choice. If we had, there would be a whole lot more than six thousand years of history to talk about… maybe a hundred times more.
Humans of prehistory were denied by most creation stories. Which makes a sort of sense because history is about our creation of the conscious world, which began when we became conscious of it, so they weren’t included. Jaynes was the first to suggest that there is something about the way modern man thinks that differs from prehistoric man. He might have even agreed that mental experiences that we would call consciousness existed in prehistoric man long before civilization. History began with a particular kind of consciousness; a social consciousness. First, Man as individual develops a conscious mind and experiences it from a safe distance. Then, Man as a group develops a conscious ego and everyone moves into it, that being the only way to keep an eye on everyone else’s. Survival for a conscious community depends on every member choosing to lead a life that has become too complex for organic mental organizations to handle. In our case, far too complex. We lead lives that are total departures from any life we’d have without our e-ciety. Perhaps more than any of our ancestor’s cultures. In whatever form or culture, we have linked together by organizing and establishing a newly created organizational pattern which becomes the substrate of new reality. Except that this reality is ours, and exists as long as we continue to create it. At first, it was a struggle to sustain a little third stage activity somewhere, at least in the priest-house or in the palace, at all times, like keeping a flame going. Life in our Great Metropoli requires non-stop 24-7 conscious states for every citizen who now needs to understand their credit report in order to eat or find mates.
In modern times, the ego has gotten a bad rap. Perhaps because they tend to be noticed only when they are swollen or otherwise injured. If operating correctly and maintaining acceptable behavior, they vanish like a puzzle piece falling into place. No one complains about a good ego that’s doing its job making our organic self into someone that other citizen-egos can share the conscious world with.
The ego should be glorified. I think it’s just as worthy of glorification as anything. It thrives when pampered, stroked and fed. In lean times, it can survive on nothing but lies. It’s your ambassador to the conscious world. You know how to talk, but when you use this tool you can talk in syntax, put together elaborate messages, and have the stamina to say them all the way through. Or work out what you’ll say before you say it because you can imagine yourself saying it. Maybe you’re pretty good at things once you’ve learned them, but the learning bit is stressful. This handy tool can organize movement, words, other people… re-arranging and recreating in its own mental workspace. It is pretty useless for ping-pong or any task that requires mental responses and choices faster than a third of a second. Becoming self-conscious in a ping-pong game would result in an embarrassing performance. While the conscious mind can’t play, it can organize the future, write novels, design buildings, and launch Mars missions. And, it’s that which is embarrassed.
After your conscious mind has dreamed up its strategic, long term ambitions and plans, your ally the ego is your only means of controlling your personality (what you look like to others) in order to achieve those dreams. Without it, your organic self could, through its spontaneity, undermine your plans at any moment by expressions that give away the store, or sudden distractions that stray off the intended course. Without it, we could not work at the office, or participate in politics, or follow a religious path. These are all activities that the ego is notorious for screwing up, leaving many believing that the ego has no place in any of them, but it is what makes such lives possible.
What’s common to all these pursuits is their reliance on telling lies, both for our own benefit and for others. The conscious ego-self will perceive a conscious world full of things the unconscious mind can’t know. To function in that world, our organic selves must accept everything the ego says is so, even if it is counter intuitive. Once the conscious ego makes its decision about what it will believe, the organic self must have faith that the ego knows what it is doing. The organic self has the most to lose, being what is physically here, and may suffer consequences that consciousness doesn’t perceive.
That’s when the ego tells us that we’re something we’re not. Even with the best of intentions, the ego can be expressing a falsehood like, I’m not nervous or I’m not craving something. We expect this kind of deception out of each other to maintain civility. All the littlest deceptions that we can justify as in the best interest of everyone all the way to the political cover-up are only possible because our ego can make us put out physical signals that drown out the organic boy scout within us. Even the simplest practice of stiffness or stoicism can make the organic you disappear to the other egos around you. As far as what you are, they will believe what your ego believes, allowing you to advance rapidly up the corporate or political ladder. We observe and admire it in others as being “in command”, cool and confident. Only the ego can play poker. One can consciously express their sexuality more intensely than their organic self. That’s what I said. Whatever one’s natural mating potential may be, it can be enhanced or even replaced if necessary by the conscious choices of the ego self. This enhancement can apply to parenting, citizenship, competition and friendship and through its imposed consistency, build a life experience that is a more attractive experience than anything our organic selves could dream of. This is where the same snag comes in; because we spend so much of our lives experiencing our conscious minds, we can become so convinced of its reality that it becomes what you think you actually are and the part of you for whose survival all the other parts are dedicated to. It should be, and once was, the other way around. And even for us moderns, the ego-self can be a benefit to our survival instead of we being its.
We lead lives that expect or even require constant use of the conscious mind, and frown on any loss of conscious self-control. Like when you’re overwhelmed with anger and blurt out words that are poorly chosen. Poorly chosen because second stage mentality has limited ability to talk, but plenty of ability to express itself. And no capacity for self-supervision. Which is where the ego comes in, because embarrassment or humiliation require a community of other egos. It simply isn’t going to happen to someone living in solitude. Second stage experience doesn’t involve an ego or a stable sense of self. There isn’t anyone there who needs one.
The arrival of conscious communities raised the question what are we?, which is something no one ever needed to know before. The ego self wants to know what it is so it can place itself in its recreated world and become conscious of its role and status in society. Once given this information, the ego becomes our highest level of organization and confiscates identity. Once that happens, the ego clings to it for dear life.
It’s a popular plot in fiction to have someone lose their identity; either from amnesia, where they’re separated from their identity and have to find it, or by some nefarious means have it taken away and no one knows who they are but themselves. Like George in “It’s a Wonderful Life”, who experiences what being conscious is like when it’s cut-off from the world that’s in everyone else’s head. It’s also being un-conscious of and cut off from the mass-mind, and locked out of a world you know is there, but it’s not the one you know. Feeling lost in the unfamiliar can isolate everything in the conscious mind to your own internal reality. A mild dose of isolation might make us feel like misfits or outcasts because we’re not seeing ourselves reflected in others. but a Hollywood-sized dose of isolation can carve an outline around the ego-self. Having a serious disconnect between the world you think you’re living in and the world everyone else thinks you’re living in, tosses this part of ourselves out where we can see it- it’s the bit that doesn’t fit. An ego is a useless mental construction if it isn’t inside of anyone else’s head but the owner’s, as in the George Bailey example. Suddenly you have a useless replication of yourself created as the you to be conscious about that can’t know where it stands with others.
Another popular story theme describes a similar mental cataclysm. When things come as a shock or there is a big change in life or circumstance, someone’s comfy conscious recreated world is overruled, but remains where someone thinks they were. Unwilling to accept this change, someone clings to their now severed dreamworld. There may be a battle to protect it from destruction. Battle with whom? One’s peers, who will see someone defending something that is not there or living in a world of ghosts.
Any of us may experience either one of these states of isolation from the mass-mind. Each is an opportunity to observe the ego-self with the hard outline of the puzzle piece that doesn’t fit, instead of blending in with its surroundings. Once observed in isolation, it becomes easier to still see it when it’s blending in. This can reveal how all we citizens live in two worlds, and each one’s quality of life can be examined by two criteria; One in the organic realm- sex, bodily health, emotional stability, physical comfort- and one in egoland- verbosity, creativity, economic wealth, education, social status. The master of one realm can be a train wreck in the other. In dealing with and surviving in the modern world- the recreated arti-physical world, some are third stage proficient, and some are not. In dealing with our organic selves in the physical world, some like their organic self and can or cannot handle it, and some don’t like their organic self and can or cannot handle it. Being conscious all day long means dealing with the world as a recreation in your head. It can be whatever you decide it is, for you anyway. Those around you may live in a slightly different world or recreation, which presents a new problem.
We peers don’t see someone else’s ego, at least not directly. We can usually tell when someone has one, but we’re actually seeing something very different. When the ego arrives, this has the effect of handing one’s personality a knife. The ego is experienced internally as identity. It has a external counterpart that is experienced by others as a big part of your personality which I like to call, the knife. Personality, of course, is that other life you lead that becomes other people’s experience. The knife is what the ego looks like to others. It is the edge on a personality.
The knife is the ego’s shadowy twin brother that haunts the physical world and possesses an otherwise undisturbed organic being. The owner does not directly experience it, but everyone else does. When the ego-self makes conscious choices about what some hapless organic soul does in the world, like asserting one’s self in support and defense of a self-image or political view, the outward result of these conscious actions is easily spotted by others because they stand in stark relief to organic patterns of behavior, like when someone is acting strange or republican. To others, they are acting for invisible interest, unseen influences or outside infiltrations; they are possessed. To others, a personality with a knife is defending something that isn’t there. It is a faithful sentry guarding a fortress that doesn’t exist anywhere in the physical world. This can be trouble, unless you’re defending the same fortress. Even if you’re both satisfied that you are, you can’t always see everything a person would defend themselves about and easily stumble right into the knife without seeing a clue.
Understanding one’s own ego and knife is especially relevant to today’s metro-cultural neo-modern neo-citizen. In earlier times, cultures were isolated, and most everyone was defending the same world. In diverse melting-pot cultures like modern America everyone is surrounded with those that don’t defend quite the same world. We seek out sub-organizations of like-minded people while our lives crisscross with many others seeking the same. Large numbers of like-minded folks become a sub-culture or ilk. Smaller groups become a clique. Two people become friends. One person becomes a space cadet. We are a lot less mean to each other when we all think the same. But we can tell that we’re not all seeking the same mind to be like, which results in everyone alienating each other, even with the best of intentions. With our knives, we defend ourselves from, and strike out at, each other. Some folks are all knife. This can erode everyone sense of personal safety and make us defensive. This sort of loyalty to one’s culture has traditionally been thought to involve race or some kind of genetic heritage of temperament. Our organic selves have no interest or capacity to be loyal to a culture, or even any ability to perceive it. Only emotional attachments to their favorite experiences of it. Only the ego can stand vigil for a culture because they are both of the arti-physical world of our third stage mentalities.
Evolution may have given us the ability to create civilization and the ego self, but it didn’t include, for our organic selves, the ability to live with either. We have to create that too. One measure of success for a conscious society is how well our organic selves fare in pursuing their well-established desires now that new management has moved in upstairs. Throughout our history, a variety of conscious cultures have been created to organize new lives for our animal half as best as they can. But it’s really our animal two-thirds- not just your body, there’s the “animal” half of your mind. Making either of them unhappy is a bad idea because they will always experience things before consciousness can, and therefore are your first ambassadors to the outside world.
Even the most devout full-time ego has moments where it doesn’t exist. Usually because something is happening that there isn’t time to be conscious about, or the organic mind is too busy to bother creating it and can’t spare the assets. Regardless of how much we want to be conscious, our ego-self has competition. The mind is a contest of the three stages competing for processing space. Too much activity from basic mental functions won't leave enough processing power to run third stage activity at all, let alone a big program like an ego. Our HLO can change rapidly in this give and take. These states can be brief, seconds or so, and soon allow the brain to re-organize a coherent third stage pattern of activity. Consciousness doesn’t see these gaps because no conscious memory of a time that we weren’t conscious was recorded. Those seconds were recorded as memories of the unconscious mind. This is where the fun begins.
The two are like different tape formats or file types that don’t run or play on each other. To the conscious mind, unconscious memories are just blips and short, sped-up frames. Our organic mentality is easily strained and overwhelmed by conscious memory, which is too much to remember without actually being conscious. Reacting, getting an inspiration, a sudden emotion, all can make consciousness disappear briefly. Conscious thought resumes when the organic mind lets it. Which is only there because the body lets it. Physical sensation or activity and primal emotions can require assuming a mental organization that compartmentalizes cortex activity with no regard for coherence as mentality, then experience descends to the body and there is no mind. A sustained moment of first stage experience like falling down the stairs or being spooked can take time to mentally recover. Even after one’s wits are recovered, the mind is still at red alert. Consciousness has resumed, but as an unfamiliar state that runs at reduced power because some of the mind is still unavailable. Some lingering component parts of the instinctual mental organization haven’t let go yet. We call it “rattled” or “shaken up”. Complete resumption of the mind's normal organization is “getting your shit together”.
This may be a tough notion to swallow. Leaping back and forth? Not enough time to be conscious? This notion of time separating the conscious and unconscious minds has come up before in Benjamin Libet’s experiments in the 1960’s but with a completely ludicrous explanation for how we always seem to be experiencing “now”. Libet observed different reaction times to a common stimulus between the cortex and the rest of the nervous system. He reconciled this gap by suggesting some further brain operation that shifts and re-times the resulting mental experience into the illusion of coincidence with physical awareness. But this nonsense about consciousness ‘backdating’ itself or traveling backwards in time really misses the point. It is experience that “moves” back and forth from the immediate animal state, to the quicker unconscious state and the later conscious state as identity follows (or rises to) whichever is your highest level of organization. Which isn’t always the ego.
All of this made living with an ego-self a difficult, complicated and on the whole, rewarding relationship. This was a new way for people to feel connected to each other. With just a general agreement about the way things are, we could express ourselves with great complexity and to others instead of just ourselves. We could create things we never would have been able to without working together in a sufficiently united conscious state. This was also a new way for people to feel disconnected from each other. As an ego-self experiences its conscious world, others will experience its external counterpart, the organic self. Those others will perceive, through some kind of physical sensation, a mental reconstruction of said self that they eventually become conscious of as part of their ego-selves’ conscious world. That’s a mouthful, but that’s what has to happen before one ego-self can perceive another. We observe that someone is “in there” that we could get to know conceptually. There’s no actual necessity for the self expressed and the self perceived to have any similarity at all, but it may be close enough to give the egos involved the illusion of having some kind of relationship which could only be described as a knife fight. While at the same time, two organic selves may be having a whole other relationship that they know nothing about. And that’s the half of it.
An ego is a shared construction between a mass-mind and its self. Yes, I said that right. We create both the mass-mind and ourselves by the same mental process yet our conscious experience is only of the self half. The other half becomes society’s experience. Both contribute to defining your ego-self. This is the familiar dramatic conflict between the lone self that says, “This is what I am!” and a society that says, “This is what you are!”.
This, along with a plethora of other potential mental train wrecks make living as a conscious citizen-ego of a post-golden age society a challenge that increases exponentially as new generations come along. For the individual, the ego eventually becomes a crises the same way as the mass-mind does for society. Sooner or later, imperfections in the way we construct either will compromises themselves as a survival tool for our organic selves. Which is after all, what we were originally hired to do. Once that compromise is reached, both society and individual will solidify into a defensive posture. This is when the ego or mass-mind’s survival depends on protecting it from a potentially lethal threat from its only possible adversary, the physical self or selves from which it sprang.
Wonderful and glorious as the ego is, if you live your life in it, there will always be someone inside you that can undermine you at any time. Someone who’s vanished just around the corner ahead of you that you can never keep up with if it chooses to bolt. It is the mind of your physical self living right there in your head with your ego self, only a bit faster. It can’t be found in the conscious mind, only conceptually recreated, like an artist’s rendering. It might remind you of someone you used to know as a child or take on lots of half-remembered faces. For serious, full-time consciousness dwellers, it is the self you are not experiencing that is living its life, sorry, your life, while you observe from a safe distance. How did this happen? Usually because those raised with rigid discipline spend so much of their waking time convinced of the need to supervise themselves- monitor behavior, suppress impulses to break discipline- that nearly all their waking time is third stage dominant. Loosing themselves (down-shifting to second stage experience) is unsettling because it makes them unpredictable and unsupervisable. Contrast this with our ancestors mostly organic experience disrupted by disturbing moments of consciousness. A self that hovers over you, that follows and chases you, all the while jabbering at you, going on and on, and reminding you of someone you used to know as a child or taking on lots of half-remembered faces. I think the second example covers what Jaynes would call a bicameral experience. Either way, the relationship between conscious and unconscious minds is strained because identity is fixated on one side or the other. For the rest of us without an identity fixation, our minds will experience both of these conditions interchangeably. A comfortable, flexible identity won’t even notice how often it flits between second and third stage experience.
It isn’t just modern folk that faces these dilemmas. Any culture in history that survived past its golden age reached the same sophistication of consciousness as us. The ego-self has appeared and disappeared here and there since civilization began. Technology and social theory have accumulated along the way allowing the current crop to build more complex lives in a more complex world. Consciousness becomes indispensable. We are the latest and greatest example.
For big-city dwellers of any age, consciousness is a mental workspace that makes their lives possible, but it can be a factory of lies. Starting with thinking that it’s you, and then claiming that it has feelings. The ego doesn’t have emotions. It might think it’s what having your emotions, but it can only find out afterward that you or someone else had them. The conscious mind can only observe how you feel, and offers the experiencer a narrower range of experience than the organic self. For the ego-self, there are only three states- satisfied, unsatisfied or indifferent. Every colorful nuance of any kind of emotional experience is only information to the ego-self. Which then becomes knowledge that can shape our conscious strategies. Knowledge that can be mistaken for the emotion itself.
To know how you feel is to create an illusion for the satisfaction of the intellect. It is once removed, like an analogy. We are conscious of having had an emotion by remembering that we had it or are having it. That memory is subject to categorizing depending on how it is to be used. If you want to talk about it, you will assign a linguistic analog(word) to this feeling that comes from a pre-set dictionary of emotions, with verbal descriptions and literary examples. It’s a vast library of variety and subtlety but words are only approximates of emotions. A wide range of feelings may all be interpreted as anger. Once angry, there are lots of socially imbedded cues and synonymous meanings like vengeance and hostility. You may tell yourself, “my anger requires retribution”, or, “I should remain angry until vengeance is administered and honor is defended!” or, “being angry means maintaining a permanent hostile demeanor”. Your feeling is genuine, but your conscious interpretation of it is a product of your cultural and intellectual background.
This may sound like consciousness can only know second-hand emotion. As knowledge of emotional experience is accumulated, consciousness no longer has to be the second-hand experience. A well informed conscious mind can take charge and initiate emotions. The conscious mind dwells on some conceptual injustice so the organic mind can see the mental images that the conscious mind assembles and emotionally react to them. Repetitive imagery produced by conscious thinking can make can bias you toward certain emotions. This can tilt one’s organic equilibrium and greatly alter their life experience and the lives of those around them. Our organic mind can put a snag in conscious experience, too.
Actions and emotions originating in the unconscious second stage mind can steer conscious experience by determining what you can and cannot be conscious of. And all before you can be conscious of it. Unexplainable compulsions generate feelings and actions that can’t always be controlled. The conscious mind ends up with a lot of explaining to do. Memories of an emotional injury or trauma from childhood can steer life through a repetition of recreating the circumstance of some emotional trauma again and again in hopes of finally producing the outcome they would have desired. Ultimately it doesn’t, because once the process is rewarded with a positive outcome, it’s repeated in its original traumatic form because now it’s the only known means of satisfaction. This won’t work for anyone. We won’t understand why. We will feel angst which can distract and even disrupt our body’s proper functioning. The unconscious mind has the greater role in creating your personality in the minds of others and often in ways that never reach consciousness. Unconscious memories of abandonment in childhood can lead to relationships that were modeled as a series of loyalty test; offering others the opportunity to choose loyalty or abandonment. Each success leads to a harder test. Failure is inevitable. Consciousness understands this as a need that can never be met and, as an explanation to itself, designs an ego-self that is a failure.
Having an explanation of everything is vital for the conscious ego. The most important explanation is of itself. Information is the substance of an ego. Becoming part of the conscious world requires creating an explanation that jives with it. If anything ever changes about the conscious world, so will the self that lives within it. And vice versa- eccentricities in the ego-self will make an eccentric view of the world. Changes in one’s way of life can require the ego-self to change with them. These aren’t changes in identity. Identity can maintain a seamless, continuous conscious experience for a lifetime. It’s only the explanation that zigzags madly in an effort to connect all the dots and keep the whole story together. Continuity is the hallmark of a stable egoself. Which means, people with a very good explanation of themselves. They tend to live in a stable conscious world.
Likewise, not having a good serviceable explanation of either yourself or the arti-physical world can result in a life that noticeably contrasts with the lives of those around you, who will think you are whacked. If you can’t live with your everyday primary conscious world, then you might create a secondary world, which you can stand. One begins to live in multiple worlds, each experienced by a appropriately explained ego-self. People seem to barely notice this in each other. Only in really obvious cases do we declare someone ill and not just weird or irritating. Multiple personalities means multiple egos. Each with its own conscious world. Usually with one in dominance, but that can change. This is business as usual for the conscious mind. As with other features of the ego-self, we only notice them if they are extreme examples. As long as one wears the appropriate personality for the moment, others will perceive only one person who appears to be well-adjusted and part of the team.
As we grow up, the conscious experience becomes an ongoing challenge of trying to explain itself to itself. Starting with parents explaining to their children what they are and continuing with society telling them what they can be. Which may contrast with their own discovery of themselves through life experience.
The ego grows up with you. Not gradually like the body, but in increments and quantum leaps. Egos redefine themselves in whole steps. Sometimes defining themselves anew, which creates a whole new conscious self. Usually because of emotional trauma or conceptual conundrums. Those are internal causes. A significant enough change in the conscious world can necessitate the creation a new self to live in it. Actual changes in one’s physical circumstance can externally alter the mind’s inner world. The conscious world can change from the inside as well. If what one thinks is out there changes, well, same difference. Some new information comes along, or some whole explanation of everything supercedes another. Like a revelation, or even a slow disciplined educational process. The world changes as what one believes about it changes. And that changes the self. Likewise, a loss of belief or undermining of fundamental assumptions can destroy the conscious world, which is followed by the destruction of the self. Disillusionment can lead to denial. If the ego-self is that which must survive, the conscious world it lives in must survive. It must be defended from the one thing that could threaten it- physical reality. Even if that means destroying it, or just hiding from it.
The egos we create don’t just fall into place in God’s creation. We have to work at it. The egoself has to learn to live with the organic self, even if it thinks it’s the other way around. We’ve been working at this problem all through our history. Sorting out the relationship between our second and third stage minds is the focus of the ancient disciplines of psychology and comedy.
That relationship gains its greatest complexity for those living in an emerging type C culture. Which would explain why the sort of high culture we all go gaga over appears intermittently through our history. Since the Greeks, civilization began to acquire a continuity as up and coming cultures were increasingly and perhaps unwittingly assembled from parts of a previous conscious world. For a conquered and occupied culture, foreign management goes when the empire falls, like a corporate trademark disappearing into the past. What it leaves behind is in the minds of subsequent generations is a broader conscious world built from the information they came with. They can’t go back to the conscious world that their ancestors lived in before they were conquered. That kind of innocence is lost. No one wants to go back to living in a smaller world that sees them as a limited self answerable to much more authority. The few who out of fear or anger pursue the faithful recreation of such a world will find that the only way to strictly enforce the old laws is to kill or horribly oppress everyone else. Fundamentalism clashed with newer progressive movements as everyone else scrambles to find a way out. This struggle can tear a culture’s organizational ability apart, or leave it vulnerable to calamity or conquering. Sudden changes in a political system or social order can shatter the connections that make society’s ongoing survival possible, since no single citizen has conscious knowledge of the whole organization, just their bit of it. The hardest loss was for the generations that did the actual losing, like those raised to live in a world that is suddenly no longer there. Minds that were all revved up with no where to go. Lots of George Bailey’s, and no Bedford Falls. They’ll have to live with a vivid memory of, and emotional attachment to, a world that isn’t there. The mass-mind is no longer passed on by itself. Their descendents won’t have as vivid a memory of the world that was. Parents won’t know what of it to teach their children that would be useful in their new lives.
Their descendents would live in a lost world of crumbling structure and technology and will inherit their parent’s sense of severed identity- always the outsider in Pottersville. For many, the surrounding ruins were a constant reminder that there were lots of things they didn’t know. And knowing they didn’t know because their parents didn’t know, and knowing that somewhere up the line, life was better until somebody blew it.
Of all the people through history, those living in one of these eras are the most like us. Any type B culture in history spawned conscious ego-selves that were much the same model and kind of experience as ours. Each had their own particular nuances that grew from their own particular history. Each post golden age rebirth culture has its own particular trauma that haunts the ego development or its citizens. Our was sin and redemption. Western Civilization is unified by a singular attempt to live with the failure of the classical world. This included a crisis of continuity for the new mass-mind that depended on exploiting its technology and infrastructure or its intellect. Why this becomes our problem is worth a look. Our particular kind of ego-self first appeared after the disappearance of the classical world and spread with the growth of the Christianity. Which should not to be confused with the spread of the aspiration of Christ. Not the ascended fourth stage self of the original movement, this was another conscious ego-self that lived within the world of the Christian church, many components of which had nothing to do with earlier Christianity. Within this self is a pain that we still haven’t gotten over. For egos constructed after the fourth century A.D., the collapse of the classical world was a trauma that would shape the ego-selves of future generations.
This new replacement conscious world would save the Roman world’s progeny from the full devastation they faced. Most of what the Roman world was vanished in a few generations. This left some people leading near animal-like lives while having minds that were capable of much more. Minds that yearned for more led lives that seemed incomplete. There was no where else to go except spirituality. As the interconnectedness of Rome broke down, local people reverted to local customs and formed diverse cultures that were, like their pre-classical ancestors, centered around the priest temple. Which for practically everybody, was the one remaining unified roman system , the Holy Roman Church. The classical mindset was gone and its systems and technology quickly decayed. The concepts that created them were lost. The church remained the one system left standing that could sustain any broad cultural coherence. It had a vast organizational network, wealth, and was very well defended.
For much of Europe, the early Christian Empire reverted to type A with consciousness contained within the temple walls. While the Church was practically everywhere, it resumed the practice of isolation. Monks and Priest lived in seclusion to protect their fragile conscious mentalities. With the economy in shambles, even their own personal efforts (work) were necessary to sustain the considerable leisure time religious devotion required. The rest of the Leisure Class, became more regional and idiosyncratic as they and their subjects got more self-sufficient and isolated from the other kingdoms. A few well-protected pockets of wealthy families and the roman church were all that was left where a standard of living could be maintained that could sustain a small self-conscious community. For the few inside, an ordered life of contemplation or consumption and preserving the past and maintaining the social infrastructure. And outside, the many, leading short, local and leisure-free lives so miserable and dull that no self-conscious person could survive them.
Self-consciousness survived the dark ages in the minds of monks and royalty. Its nurse maid through these difficult times was the Christian Church, which created and developed a world full of complexity with twists and turns and absorbing explanations with discontinuities so profound as to provide a conscious ego a lifetimes worth of intellectual stimulation. This was in an effort to make a conscious life worth it. There wasn’t much else to be conscious about. For centuries, it was our lifeboat. Without it, or something else like it, the intellect of the classical age would not have survived in the west. We moderns have a connection to the Judeo-Greco-Roman culture of pre-Christian times that could well have been completely severed. The cumulative classical mass-mind that, in its final form, was the Roman Empire also escaped to the lifeboat. Only a half of it made it. The Roman world was gone, but not the Roman self. We still explain ourselves much the same way they did, and some of us still do it in Latin. Because of that continuity we retain the kind of mind that eventually gained access to the information that built the classical world. That gave us an advantage that would only payoff when enough social organization with enough leisure time re-emerged that could co-create enough full-time ego-selves to exploit it. It could have taken a lot longer. In less than a millennium, we went from campfires to light bulbs, and laser pointers in a century more.
If Christianity never came along, something else sooner or later would have come up with a new world for egos to live in and replaced the disintegrating roman mass-mind. There were many contenders, but ultimately Christianity was triumphant. Christ had destroyed the temple. On the whole, that was lucky for us. Someone else might have done it without the bonus of an ego solution. The original Christianity was born from the same disillusionment that propelled other revolutionary ideas, but it was also a genuinely creative act- inventing more than a new conceptual self and a world for it to live in. This was a detached and cognitive state where identity transcends the conscious ego. Christ and his friends spread an opportunity for fourth stage ascension. It’s still there, of course, but once the Christian church came along the emphasis shifted to arti-physical matters.
With that original aspiration as a universally powerful draw to attract participation, the church quickly built a world for everyone to find it in. It offered the pursuit in a structured and organized way. This was all ego activity in a conscious world, which put to ground any potential fourth stage ascension because it didn’t include anywhere to put any such cognitive self. This was yet another example of a people’s ascent aspirations becoming trapped in the conscious world as strictly a pursuit of the conscious mind. Still, our survival as a large, fed and defended population dictated that the first order of business was keeping us mentally organized, and we were lucky to have somewhere to go.
Christianity began as a means of escape from the Roman mass-mind, but would eventually become the basis for the next type C mass-mind to emerge. What Christ himself began, the solution to the ego problem, now had to wait for the people of the dark ages to grow a new type B mass-mind that would reach the same crises again. That would be the Renaissance, which promptly led to the crisis described in the next bit. Christianity’s most profound influence would not appear for a thousand years until western civilization again faced the crisis that Rome could not survive.