The Five Faces of Freedom: Freedom from the self
Editor’s note: This is Part 4 of a five-part series, the Five Faces of Freedom, recounting the author’s reflections on turning 70. Part 1 focused on Freedom from the Past, Part 2, on Freedom from the Future, Part 3, Freedom from the World.
Human beings are a fascinating species, a rapidly evolving species. You might even go so far as to say that we represent 3 levels of this evolution. Homo erectus is our animal self, arising over millions of years from our primate ancestors. Homo Sapien references the
human over the past several thousand years, a mental/emotional amalgam rapidly evolving. And a new term, not yet fully formed, some using homo spiritus, others homo glimmulus, refers to our emerging new consciousness, that which we will explore today.
Carolyn Myss brilliantly explored the energy body, or sacred anatomy, and she described this three-fold evolution with the terms tribal mind, egoic mind and spiritual mind. According to her these three levels of consciousness exist in each of us and are expressed collectively in our world. As I mentioned earlier in the work of Abraham Maslow, the tribal mind is dominated by survival, safety and belonging needs, the egoic mind by achievement and self esteem, and the spiritual mind with the care of the soul and matters of the spirit.
Relating to our discussion on the Faces of Freedom we see that the tribal mind is simple in the value it holds for the past, the traditions of culture, creed and community. There is little interest in freedom, beyond the simple release that comes with death. For the egoic mind, however, the issue becomes much more complex. Here we are talking about great efforts to avoid death, for to the ego death is the end of everything it values. The ego uses two very powerful tools in its defense, these being denial and projection. The individual “self” is its prized possession.
When we approach death our grasp on the past, the future and the world is relatively easy to release. The end of the body and the world as we know it is rather clear. But the self, the mental emotional construct, is quite another thing. In my second encounter with death, collapsing from heat stroke, my body being attended to by a team of medics, “I” found myself observing their frantic struggle from above. My body was in an ice bath and one attendant called out “we’re losing him!” My body was pulled out of the ice bath and placed on a gurney, but I was off flying into the stratosphere, my mind obsessed with one burning question: Was this a good thing, or a bad thing, referring to my death. I thought about my two friends, who had traveled with me to this road race in Falmouth, MA. They would be very upset. I thought about the friends I was going to visit the next week in Maine; they also would be disappointed. And, of course, I thought about my mother, who had already lost one of her children to suicide. What a terrible thing for her to endure. But, still, part of my mind was not convinced that my death was wholly a “bad thing.” It kept asking the question until all of a sudden it stopped and out of the quiet came another voice which simply stated “there is no good or bad; everything just is.”
So here was my ego being “shattered,” much as it had been 3 years before in a horrific car crash. There, again, I came into contact with some power that was clearly protecting me. My body, like my Jeep, was being destroyed, and I felt this cocoon of love embracing me, assuring me that all was well. And then fast forward to 4 years after my heat stroke death, when I foolishly traveled to India to celebrate my 40th birthday. In my arrogance and stupidity I imagined myself doing the Hindu pilgrimage from New Delhi to Gangotri, the source of the sacred Ganges, living as close as possible to the pilgrim’s simplicity. I lasted less than a week, becoming deathly ill, laying on my deathbed in Haridwar, 3 days of fever of 107 degrees (it seems that my previous heat stroke broke the heat regulator in my brain). Somehow surviving this terrible ordeal, my life as I had known it was over.
What was the purpose of this process, from the age of 33 to 40? What comes of being broken, burned and poisoned to death, humbled beyond belief? Could it be that I was being introduced to another aspect of my being, that which is impervious to death? From all of my spiritual study I had come to understand that our function, spiritually, is to serve as a conduit through which the divine, what Tolle called “the unmanifested,” could express itself.
Jesus, in A Course in Miracles, was offering me clear guidance, on how this function and my happiness were one and the same. It seems likely that being humbled opened me to the spiritual wisdom expressed as “of myself I am nothing, the Father he doeth the work.” I liked even more the mystical expression from the Bible, “when thine eye becomes single, thy whole body will be filled with light.”
Freedom from the self means that the ego and its denial and projection of divinity is defeated. Our true reality is divine, and one clear aspect of this divinity is immortality. Earlier, I talked about our relationship with eternity, that this is the cornerstone of the foundation of Conscious Living. Our energy body is what serves as this bridge between heaven and earth, the timeless realm and the space-time world. When we shift our identification from the body and the person, when our eye becomes single, we awaken to our energetic reality. This is what I was being shown, directly, via my brushes with death. “I am not my body; I am free.” This lesson from A Course in Miracles is repeated many times. And even more freeing is the understanding that my self, my person, is not special. It is only my emptiness that makes me useful; it is only my willingness that allows the unmanifested to express its divinity through me.
The way I teach this to my daughter, almost 7, is that every leaf, every blade of grass shares a holy function. Plants serve life by transmuting the energy of the sun into water, air and food. Life on earth depends upon this vital process. Likewise we share a very holy function, as the energetic principle of the universe, call it god if you like but it cannot express itself except through us. We receive this energetic imperative and transmute it into forms useful for our world. Our highest gift is our creativity, our enthusiasm, and our love. In this, we answer the call to create heaven on earth.
Louis Bourgeois lives outside of Cuenca with his wife and young daughter. He teaches courses in Conscious Living and Conscious Dying. If you would like to participate, he can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org