Tuesday, February 9, 2010

An Assemblage of Separate Things: Part 2- So What?

"If, then, after understanding, at least in theory, that the ego-trick is a hoax and that, beneath everything, 'I' and 'universe' are one, you ask, 'So what? What is the next step, the practical application?'-I will answer that the absolutely vital thing is to consolidate your understanding, to become capable of enjoyment, of living in the present, and of the discipline which this involves. Without this you have nothing to give- to the cause of peace or of racial integration, to starving Hindus and Chinese, or even to your closest friends. Without this, all social concerns will be muddlesome meddling, and all work for the future will be planned disaster."

The Book On the Taboo Against Knowing Who You Are, by Alan Watts. pg.115-116

Watts spends the first 2/3rds of the book attempting to illuminate the reader of the illusion of separateness before tackling the plan of putting theory into action. Yet as soon as he pops the question he basically states that there is nothing you can do. Well the you that is You, not the you that is I, the universe. There is nothing that you (your ego) can do because any action taken by the ego is in danger of falling into the vicious circle of one-upmanship.

"I am more pious than you."
"I am more loving and accepting than you."

"No, no, no my friend, I am more aware of the ego-trick than you."

Further down the pit we tumble as we pat ourselves on the back for donating blood or pointing out the follies of fundamentalists. And with each ego-inflating comment I make I spiral downward as I comment on the comment (did you catch that?), further and further reaffirming what Watts calls the ego-trick. So instead of asking So What?, it seems we are caught asking ourselves, So What Now?

By trying to escape the clutches of the Ego and embrace the eternal Now, we are digging ourselves deeper, struggling tightens the restraints of the trap. Have a headache yet? Watts gives a list of practices to help begin the journey of escaping the ego-trick but he cautions that we can not Will ourselves or take any actions (short or long-term) to experience the melting of wave into ocean, do not try to get rid of the ego-sensation. Instead of asking how to get there we should be asking ourselves why we want to get there. When the answer becomes self-knowledge that the ego is a fake and the line between observer and observed (which is also fake!) dissipates we find ourselves "not in a world but as a world which is neither compulsive nor capricious."

So which then is better: to be aware of the trap and struggle to free the ego (by understanding the struggle as an illusion) or to be unaware of it and struggle to save our ego from total annihilation? I don't ask the question because I'm struggling for an answer, if there is an answer to be found, I ask because I'm drawn to _____. That! That which we can not even begin to describe so we dance, sing, pray, write, paint, build, share, give, and love collectively in an attempt to describe to one another the experience of ____. "That is the Self. That is the real. That art thou."

An edited and extended version of this post is up on my class blog, American Spirituality, where my classmates and I will be posting our thoughts on our class readings.


Don said...

I would highly recommend Eckart Tolle's, "The Power of Now" to you. If you like Watts' approach, I feel you will really like Tolle. Have you read him?

Unknown said...

No I haven't read any of his works just heard of him and his books. And of course I've seen the occasional Youtube video bashing him and Oprah for spreading New Age Satanist mysticism. You got to love Youtube!

captron52 said...

Yet another great post my friend! And it seems as if everytime I get to a point where I think Ive gotten my ego tamed it will raise its sometimes ugly head and say-"Wait just a minute there human being.As long as you are in a physical body you will always have me to deal with!" And so it goes but I keep trying!

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