reflections on Tolle & Freud: a basic review

Despite a multitude of efforts on my part, my day to day sanity remains fragile.  I wake up in the morning needing to ask myself what it was that just last night seemed to make so much sense.  I rub my eyes with my fist and slowly the glimpse returns: What is my relationship to the current moment?  What is my relationship to Life?

If I were to ask about how I felt about what was happening in the current moment, I might feel very different.  After all anything can be happening in the moment and we have so little to do about that particular destiny.  I am tired, I don’t want to get up, I don’t feel like going to work, I don’t want to get out of bed?  I feel miserable.  I can’t wait until I do not have to do this crap anymore.  Tomorrow the moment will be better and tomorrow I will be able to have a better relationship with Life .

But the question, “What is my relationship to the current moment?”  Well, that bring about another aspect of consciousness.  My relationship to what is happening at any given moment is different than the content of the moment.  What is my relationship to the idea that I am tired, what is my relationship to the idea in my mind that I do not feel like getting out of bed?  These questions remove the immediacy of the response or the immediacy of my reaction to what is happening in the moment.  This slight variation in perception allows me to have distance from my reactivity which in turn allows me to experience the moment instead of experiencing what i am thinking of the moment.

Eckhart Tolle tells us that we ought to be experiencing the moment rather than identifying with the thought that we are having about the moment.  I am on my third re reading of his New Earth and it remains difficult for me to experience the Now as emphatically as he would have us do.  In truth, I find the intellectual or the mental activity of locating the now to be relatively easy; but it is attempting to remain in the location of the Now, the present moment, that I find hard to accomplish. I think that I have arrived at a place in meditation or in contemplation that allows me to experience the moment, but the stringing of the moments together is elusive.  Nonetheless, the portal that the moment gives us remains the most profound way that I know of experiencing the consciousness of life..

Consciousness as opposed to egoic consciousness is a more stable way of extinguishing an inflamed ego.  Egoic consciousness is concerned exclusively with time and as such the feeling of fullness or the experience of enough is not available.  Feeding the ego as a way of emerging from narcissism just does not work.  The idea that we are aiming for an egoic sense of adequacy or self esteem within the ego has always left me embracing concepts such a grandiosity, arrogance and even greed.  It is as if I was chasing after a healthy ego as a way to unseat a dysfunctional ego, but even a healthy ego only gave me a bigger more inflated sense of egoic self when what I was needing was to emerge from the ego and stand in the wider field of consciousness and observe my ego.

It is only through emerging from the ego that we can establish for ourselves a sense or inter-being.  By that I mean a feeling of belonging to a universal consciousness that is interwoven with threads from the natural world.  We can experience a feeling of connectedness with atoms and molecules that were once part of a sun or particle in some cosmic explosion.

Self-importance diminishes in the face of belonging to a universal cosmic event that is really not governed by “clock” time.

And, when self-importance no longer becomes important to us, we are able to focus on the elements of compassion and empathy that give us a feeling of being united in our suffering and engaged with each other in joy.

The idea of ego binds us to a mental construct of ourself as solitary in the world.  The history of the study of the ego began formally as a science with Freud over a hundred years ago.  His contribution to the understanding of the human condition is probably second to none in the western world.  Yet, there probably has not been many men who have been as misunderstood as he has been.

If we were to compare Freud’s idea of the ego with Tolle’s idea of the ego we would find, I think,  similarity in understanding the function of this mental apparatus.  Freud would go on to devoting 23 volumes of brilliant observations discussing the intricacies of this invisible organ.  Tolle will simply acknowledge that it is there to be observed and proceeds immediately to discuss methods for helping us to disentangle ourselves from the grip that it has on us through the narration that it produces.

The value that the ego has to an individual organism and the value that it has had on the evolution of our specie is nearly incalculable.  At the same time it has produced a situation in which the more primitive instincts have been regulated to a corner of consciousness that finding our instincts requires setting aside the very ego that has produced all the knowledge that man has acquired about himself and the environment.

Science and knowledge belong to the realm of the ego.  Art and spirituality exist as products of our instincts and as such may not pass through the realm of the ego.  It is not that they can not work together.  Indeed, I think that we work best in all circumstances when a fusion of the right brain and the left brain work in tandem.  It is just that in order to contact or make know our instincts we must exit the ego. An instinct is a phenomena of consciousness that implies depth while the thought processes of the ego seem to require breadth.  We speak of the breadth of ones knowledge and the depth of ones instincts or wisdom.  Although these are only metaphors for the types of consciousness, I think they imply or at least point to the fact that these two values of human existence are not discovered in the same way.