There is a contradiction between the West, with its individualism, and Islam (using Islam as an example of Theistic culture) which is really between the 20th Century culture of materialism underpinned by Freudian theory. Simply put the purpose of life is pleasure, but pleasure has true and false aspects. If creation (as described previously) draws from a wider well than oneself in the isolated sense, then one can be more than oneself, but this is a different mode of being. But should we go too far in this direction, selflessness, it would represent invalidation of ourselves, which would just mean putting others above us. Why so? Are we not equally of merit?
It could be said that Freud promotes the doctrine of the self. We have many movies that tell us the loner wins. This is a dead end and bad advice for life. When one focuses on the self there is power, but many wrong directions which will stop that power. When one is God only there is the problem of invalidating that which is part of God essence itself. If Man is created in the image of God, then self abnegation is invalidation of God. But foolish pride is also error as it denies God.
There are others who fall by the wayside in the spiritual quest, they were asked much of and could not measure up. They fill themselves with justifications and resentments. All this is irrelevant, that is just a case of beingness falling short. They become very individualistic.
Individualism is the error of the age. It is a state of being shut off from the wider self. Worse, the individual doesn't even know their own self, they search for meaning. People who operate socially and spiritually do not need to search for meaning or identity, it falls naturally. The relationship between a man and a woman is analogous to ego and God. In a relationship there is a certain element of surrender of self, of course this is fluid and not a fixed state. Controlling only or submissive only is robotic. The two find a wholeness. What we mean by God is a totality of viewpoints or the motivating essence.
Freud can possibly be regarded as a turning point in western society from the infinite, to the self. The West was probably individualistic but Freud made it worse. While religion had regarded the self as something to be overcome it now became the central goal. The effect on society has been profound, from a diverse range of thought leaders from Freudo-Marxism to advertising via his disciple Ernest Dichter and a change of perspective via the Sexual revolution toward sex as "self gratification", rather than an institution of marriage ordained by God. Almost universally these changes are seen as liberation but they could also be characterised as a breakdown in social responsibility. Ego (spirituality) was not a new concept, Freud made ego both a science and a cult.
fact Freudianism was criticised as a form of pagan religion, a
"Dionysian sex-idolization" by a contemporary Viennese
intellectual Egon Friedell (Cultural History of the Modern Age).
And for that, the role of celibacy in the Christian Church was not in
the Bible but became an obsession afterward, and also goes back to
Pagan religion and Greek philosophers including Pythagoras.
Things were quite different before Freud, people had faith in their spiritual supports. People in Iran for instance, are much like this and see the West with horror and askance. The ego driven society is based on cravings, it is run through advertising which exploits these urges based on psychiatric and psychological theory and is about manipulation and control. It can be quite seductive and hence has been rejected by conservative Moslems.
But a spiritual life without individual life is also error.
Ego/God duality is my original idea and represents the dual nature of the Monad, or one essence, that it is at once everything (ego) and nothing (God).
Ego / God is also a continuum for which we could substitute self / selflessness. Each side becomes contradictory in the extremes foolish arrogance / self abnegation. Considering we all are an aspect of God self abnegation becomes anti life. What would happen if two saints met at a door "you go first" says one, "no I defer, you go first" says the other. It might go on for some time, indicating the pointless nature of it. Watching a reality TV show about hopeful Bollywood stars being required to spend a night with a family in the slums, it was noteable how happy that family was that had virtually nothing.
On the other hand life is to be enjoyed and there is nothing wrong with having well earned pleasure and its rewards, which amount to God in action like a symphony. When we talk about possessions we talk about experience and self, ego, versus "not having" as a conscious act, God. The Bible says it is more blessed to give than to receive (Acts 20:35) which creates a problem as giving possibly doesn't help quite as it is considered.
Also "Life does not consist in an abundance of possessions" (Luke 12:15) There is nothing wrong with having things, so long as one does not go into agreement with the physical universe just wanting more and more chasing perfection that is unattainable for what is impermanent and illusion. Losing sight of God. Selflessness can also be too focussed on the material universe, giving it a greater importance than it warrants, and not on that which perceives and creates it, hence the Buddhist "middle way", rejection of both self-mortification and self-indulgence.
Material things really don't matter except when they become a distraction or where their lack inhibits life.
In the modern world children affected by the ego society often want to have the best brand and be the boss. As do sometimes feminists who seem to pursue male objectives (not to say they can't) but have lost sight of the feminine.
But where male and female find a union, we would then have male (ego) / female (selflessness - God). It is possible for this pattern to be otherwise. In reality God is in both and the apparent duality of the Monad is only where there is belief in illusion, the material world. While the material world is apparently concrete even physicists know it is in flux, as may be (or not be). Anything below the Monad has only relative truth. St Paul made some interesting comments in this direction "For we know in part and we prophesy in part, but when completeness comes, what is in part disappears." But it is not possible to know the Monad "face to face", that would be a contradiction. We can go to Taoism "The one is not confused above and not indistinct below; an unbroken continuity, it cannot be named, reverting to abstraction. This is called the formless state, the image of the abstract."(Tzu, Lao. The Original Tao Te Ching (Kindle Locations 367-369). . Kindle Edition.)
Ego versus God is a little similar to Yin and Yang in Taoism, something created makes its opposite. Yin and Yang are complementary, each completes the other.
In Hinduism Shiva is the active God and Vishnu the passive.
From ancient religions to a modern one, the Church of Scientology developed by L. Ron Hubbard, frees the self and then opens one to God (or Gods). This transition through progressive realms of activity is known as the eight dynamics. Focus on self is matched with increasing responsibility. A system consistent with Ego versus God.
But no matter your belief, in broad terms, there needs to be a balance, neither all self or all God. And in between the extremes there needs to be flux, a fluid position so that one is not stuck in all "oneself" or all "others".
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Copyright (c) David R. Griffiths 2012, 2017