A Copernican change
Life's personal experience is based on the (temporary) existence of the conscious Ego, on the psychic experiences in which it is involved over time, and on the (more or less vivid) memories of past experiences. The existence of our body is a fact constantly confirmed to us by our sensations, as well as by our fellows, while the existence of the Ego is a mental experience based on self-consciousness. Usually the normal psychic tunings that determine mental functioning, also on the basis of acquired socio-cultural programs, make every Ego consider itself the privileged center of experience, but it is enough to see things from another perspective to understand how the conscious Ego is ensnared in a psychic deception, or at least in an illusion, on whose origin and purpose it is worth reflecting.
If the existence of the conscious Ego and the psychic tunings it experiences are entirely attributed to a person's nervous system and brain, we wonder where this system originates from. Unless we want to take refuge in solipsism, declaring that the only reality is that of the mind (which deceives us about the real existence of the body and the world), we must recognize to the body and the brain their autonomous and complex reality, with respect to which the Ego no longer has a dominant central position. This role is now assumed by the evolutionary process that developed, over hundreds of millions years, the production system of human bodies and brains (and those of animals too). Beyond any form of religious faith, any person with sufficient intelligence will admit the reality of this process, which determines the production of the instruments to which the current scientific knowledge attributes both consciousness and the Ego's feeling of identity and personal existence.
Even today, there are not many people who understand the importance of this change and the consequences deriving from it. Humans – in general – continue to act, to think, to behave, and in a word to function, in the conviction of having (and being) an autonomous personality. However, we must recognize that scientific knowledge is not able to explain why, at a certain point in the evolution and after a few billion years in which this process occurred in that dimension which we call natural, a consciousness was developed, capable of focusing on the experiences deriving from that remarkable phenomenon which is the human psyche, which shows some substantial differences with respect to the psychic dynamics present in nature.
If things are actually in these terms, the destiny of each person is determined: 1) by the characteristics and development of his/her brain (therefore by the genetic set); 2) by the environmental conditions in which the organism's growth process takes place (first in the maternal uterus and, after birth, in the milieu that takes care of the newborn); 3) by the instruction programs that are received and acquired by the person as he/she grows up; 4) by the previous personal history and the opportunities that arise in the course of a person's life, determining their choices based on the brain functioning prerogatives. These variables, in their complex interactions, determine the personal destiny of each person and the substantial differences that can be found between the life of one person and that of another. In this picture the Ego's desire to be able to determine its own destiny seems completely irrelevant, unless considering it as the reflection of a resource with which the brain is endowed. On the other hand, we can speak of will in relation to the intention to obtain a certain result, that is, to have a goal. There must therefore be either a mental command that requires action to achieve that goal (which may also be unwished, as in the case of soldiers in war), or a desire, that is, a particular psychic event that intensely involves the Ego.
Thus there is a transfer from the Ego to its brain of all the operative functions that determine not only the behavior of a person, but also all the psychic experiences in which the Ego is involved. The conscious Ego is thus downgraded to a secondary operational role with respect to brain activity, especially since the latter largely occurs without becoming a psychic experience of which the Ego can be conscious. To be consistent with this scientific cognitive framework, we should therefore attribute to the evolutionary process as a whole every personal destiny and, consequently, every individual drama and every collective tragedy. The conscious Ego would only be a witness – moreover, precarious – of what inevitably happens, and the same abilities that are commonly attributed to it (to be able to determine its own destiny in this life, either successfully or not), would depend exclusively from the resources of the body and the brain of which it is an expression.
The awakening of the conscious Ego
When the conscious Ego becomes aware of this psychic representation of the reality of human life, its condition of passive witness of mental events can radically change. First of all we must clarify why we speak of psychic representation of reality, and not of an objective fact: for a long time, in our culture as well as in other cultures, the human being has been considered as composed of body and soul, and in some cases also of body, soul and spirit. The whole experience of the inner life was attributed to the soul, that is, what we now consider in the context of the Ego's self-consciousness, consciousness and psychic experiences. These are representations elaborated by the human intellect to meet the questions that the Ego asks, driven by a need inherent in its nature: the desire to know, to understand. In every age there have been people who have not believed in the survival of consciousness and personal memories of the death of the body, thus confirming the fact that all psychic experiences are attributed to the brain functioning. By contrast, even today many people believe in the existence of something that allows the Ego to consciously survive the death of the body.
The fact of believing that our current scientific knowledge is more solid and reliable than that of the past, because founded on real objective facts, is also due to a particular, and moreover relative, psychic tuning, since we have no elements to know what will be the evolution of scientific knowledge in the future. Furthermore, as we have seen in the pages of this site dedicated to Psychic phenomena and Psychical research, some objective and well-documented facts cannot be placed in the cognitive schemes currently prevalent in our culture. Whether you want to consider them as evidence of the existence of the spirit, or you want to attribute them to particular uncommon psychic powers, they show that the relationship between objective reality and some faculties of human psyche is very close: in our current culture, reality prevails over the psyche, but it is not necessarily the case that it always should be so.
To be able to confront the process that determines its very existence, the conscious Ego must first be able to differentiate itself from the psychic events that involve it. This path of differentiation involves neither a renunciation of one's personal identity – which is also confirmed by the memories of one's past experiences – nor an elimination of mental activity: the Ego recognizes the individual character of the human experience that he/she is living, which becomes a different personal story for each of us. At the same time, however, it enacts and defends its own critical and operative autonomy towards the psychic components of this same personal history, selecting, among the available mental resources, those most suitable to support and help it along its evolutionary path. Once a certain degree of autonomy is reached, the Ego can navigate following a precise route in the sea of psychic experiences, without being overwhelmed and without having to passively suffer them. The final goal of the evolutionary path of the conscious Ego consists in the liberation from the conflictual and negative aspects of the human psyche and in the ability to experience psychic tunings of a higher level.
The conscious Ego's first step in the path of liberation consists in differentiating itself, recognizing its autonomy, with respect to the psychic experiences by which it is involved. It is not yet a liberation – since the Ego continues to be at the mercy of the psychic events, determined by the mental activity stimulated by what happens in his/her body and in the external environment – but a voluntary act of renouncing both the identification with the psychic tunings of which it was an unconscious hostage until that moment, and the consequent need to have to defend them in front of others as if they were something particularly precious and vital for its very existence. This first step is of fundamental importance and represents, we may well say, the awakening of the Ego from its passive and subordinate condition as the unconscious (expendable) pawn of a game in which – until that moment – it was simply caught and used.
The resources of the conscious Ego
If the Ego succeeds in taking the first steps in its evolutionary path of separation from the psychic experiences, it is because it can rely on some resources which – although determined by mental activity – are already under its control. The first of these resources is intelligence, in one of the various forms it can take. Intelligence can also be associated with a particular empathic sensitivity, which compares the various human destinies asking questions about their causes and their effects, and evaluating the different psychic reactions and their impact on the multitude of conscious Egos who live in this world. Intelligence compares the different psychic attitudes and highlights the inconsistencies and conflicts that occur especially in the interactions between different people, but also as inner conflicts in a person's mind. Above all, intelligence opens the way to the distinction between the psychic functions determined by the animal origin of our body and the creative, communicative and organizational functions on which human societies are based. Finally, it is thanks to intelligence that the Ego becomes aware of the possibility of differentiating itself from the psychic experiences with which it did always identify.
Another resource available to the Ego is determination, that is the will to continue on the path undertaken, along which the Ego will still have to face psychic tunings of every kind, including those that manifest themselves in the form of reasoned doubt, of emotional involvement to which the Ego fails to escape, of lack of trust in its own resources and, above all, of not being able to count on the support of others, due to the fact that such support is based on the sharing of certain psychic tunings. Sometimes religious systems refer to faith to indicate the constancy of the believer in adhering to his/her own religion despite internal doubts or threats from outside. Faith, however, is generally based on uncritical adherence to a dogmatic system, while the Ego's determination in going on along its path of differentiation from the psyche is based on the trust that the Ego places in its critical intelligence and in the spirit as guide to liberation. The conscious Ego knows that success is not guaranteed, but accepts the challenge and undertakes its task to the best of its abilities, just like a free solo climber does.
The third resource is the spirit, also meant as a sense of humor, detachment from the vicissitudes of life – especially in their dramatic aspects – and the ability to face unpleasant psychic experiences with a smile, if it is not possible to avoid them. The spirit is like a friend who helps the Ego to relativize the psychic reactions resulting from life's events, highlighting the dark, obsessive, depressing and negative character of some psychic tunings, determined both by natural events, and by mental programs transmitted by the social milieu. It is advisable to reflect on the fact that, if it is taken for granted that negative psychic tunings are determined by the brain's functioning, the brain itself can be genetically and physiologically predisposed to activate mental states, which in some cases turn into true pathologies, that are difficult to tolerate for the Ego. Under these conditions, beyond the comfort and support that a person can obtain from the solidarity of others, only the active presence of the spirit can help the conscious Ego to face the psyche without succumbing.
Finally, the Ego's last resource resides in its self-awareness, which brings to light the nucleus of an autonomous and independent origin with respect to the psychic experiences generated by earthly life and dependent on the functioning of the brain: thanks to this self-awareness, the Ego senses that in front of him opens the door that gives access to existence, despite all the cultural information that want to convince it that its own temporary life is subordinated to brain activity. Strengthened by the support of the resources at its disposal, the Ego can venture into the path of liberation from the subjection to the psyche, which becomes a journey into the psichic world, along which the Ego learns to manage and resolve the conflicts that come to consciousness, discriminating between what is really useful, positive and happily valid for its evolution, and what instead hinders, enmeshes and disheartens it, unnecessarily consuming its energies.
The journey of the Ego in the psyche
In starting his journey into the human psyche, the Ego must first of all remain faithful to its objective, which is to free itself from the emotional entanglements that psychic experiences entail. Except for neutral psychic experiences, which do not involve significant emotions, many other experiences are associated with positive or negative emotions. The Ego's orientation should be very simple: to avoid, through personal behavior, experiences that involve negative emotions and to search for those that offer positive emotions. This is the starting orientation, typical of children, and in this condition the Ego remains as long as it is subjected to the dominion of the psyche: in fact, they are the same psychic tunings determined by the brain functioning (as reactions to environmental events) that produce the emotions perceived as positive or negative. But since these emotions are almost never isolated, but determine behaviors that in turn stimulate new psychic reactions associated with other linked emotions, the Ego ends up being completely ensnared in the psyche, losing all capacity for control and autonomous orientation. The goal of the Ego, at the beginning of its journey of liberation, consists in the search for an autonomous, happy, active and interesting existence. And let's see what these terms really mean.
The existence of the Ego must be, if not eternal, timeless, and in any case it must be the Ego to decide whether it wants to exist or whether it wants to end its existence. Here we find ourselves before a very precise psychic choice: if the Ego renounces to affirm its right to existence, accepting as ineluctable the exclusive dependence on the brain functioning and therefore its annihilation as a consequence of the dissolution of the same brain, it also surrenders to its subordination to psychic commands, thus accepting its role as a human automaton. For this reason the term of the existence of the conscious Ego cannot coincide with the end of human life, but must result in a transformation that occurs only when the Ego feels ready. Any information, form of knowledge or cultural program that denies the right of the conscious Ego to exist cannot be accepted by the human being, which would be degraded to the functional and operational role of a creature to be used and then eliminated. The first aim of the Ego's path of liberation is the affirmation and defense of its right to existence.
The autonomous character of existence refers to the continuity and coherence of the individual experience, free to integrate and harmonize with other autonomous existences, but also free from the constraint to confront each other in a conflictual way. The autonomy of existence is given by the invulnerability with respect to the damages and injuries that can be caused by other autonomous existences (in turn invulnerable), and by the absence of reasons of conflict, such as, for example, the competition for vital resources. This does not mean that autonomous existence cannot evolve into a fusion of vibrating individual energies in harmony with each other, as in a choir in which the individual voices – each with its own individual timbre – create the polyphony of the chant.
Happiness too is important. One of the causes that disturb our earthly existence is the unhappiness connected, sometimes in an unjustified way, to various psychic experiences. It even happens that the perception and awareness of the unhappiness of others prevent us from being happy, to a greater extent the more these other people are bound to us by affective ties. But if this almost epidemic contamination by unhappiness exerts its effects in the context of earthly life, as an almost unavoidable component of the human psyche, it cannot be equally effective in other psychic dimensions, in which happiness should be in itself absolute, complete and invulnerable by the unhappiness present in other levels. Even in the realm of the human psyche, where everything is relativized, the presence of truly infernal experiences does not prevent some people from experiencing – even if temporarily – paradisiacal tunings.
Activity and interest are then intrinsically linked to the Ego's journey within the psyche, both in the creative form of producing something new, which becomes existing thanks to our mental activity, and in the sphere of the intellectual resources that can expand our knowledge, self-knowledge and the ability to explore the psyche itself, both in the human dimension and in other dimensions. Once the conscious Ego begins to free itself from the subjection to certain psychic tunings that keep it caged, vast territories to be explored become accessible to its capacity for experience, already in the ambit of the human psyche. At the beginning of its adventure, the only limits seem to be those of mental resources and life span, but as the Ego proceeds along its itinerary, it realizes that it can draw new resources from the psyche itself, which before blocked and subjugated it. Mind control determines a particular balance that also involves the body, and can be beneficial for the surrounding environment. The same life span can become a free choice, because the conscious Ego, once freed from those psychic instances that forced it to consider earthly life as the only possible form of psychic experience, can feel the need to have experiences in psychic dimensions different from the human one.
In proceeding along the path of liberation, the psychic experiences are evaluated by the Ego through the resources available to it: some experiences can be integrated into the already known and – so to speak – ruled territories, while others can be averted, depriving them of the power to subjugate the Ego. A sort of cartography of the psychic territories explored by the Ego is thus created, which over time goes on to enrich the resources at its disposal, making it more determined, more efficient and more capable in facing the difficulties it encounters by continuing in its venture. The Ego's asset of psychic experiences allows a new interpretation of the psyche, which resolves its conflicts in itself. Attention: it is not the human psyche as a whole that resolves its conflicts, which remain active and operative in the sphere of humanity, but only that individual range of psychic tunings concerning a person whose Ego proceeds along the liberation path. The mind reveals itself for what it is: a program (or a series of programs) interpreting a real system that constitutes this world (within a much larger system that constitutes this universe), whose intrinsic reality cannot be known directly by the Ego. We, through the psyche, experience some aspects that interpret this reality and, until we free ourselves from our subjection to the psyche, we are obliged to experience such interpretative aspects.