Hazelnuts, ego, and death

Millionaire mystic and sometime pseudo-science salesman Deepak Chopra recently described enlightenment as: ‘getting rid of the person that never was’.

There’s something in what he says I think. If one were to become what Chopra calls enlightened, it would surely be through a process of self-unrealisation, whereby one realises that the self you know – is not what you think it is.

Freud classified the psyche as having three ‘theoretical constructs’ – id, ego, and super ego. While the id, or the instinctual part of the psyche hasn’t gone on to become famous, and the super ego is not exactly a rockstar either, the ‘ego’ has become a very popular term. It has the X factor.

Ego has been transplanted into a million-billion conversations, which are basically about ‘big headedness’ or perhaps an overinflated sense of self-importance.

But ego is more than that, in psychoanalytical terms it actually relates to the sense of self, which intervenes between the instinct and the environment – it is, you might say, what classifies each of us as separate entities.

What Chopra is actually saying, I think, is that enlightenment is the realisation that we are in fact ‘all one’. We aren’t confined by the ‘boundaries’ of the ego, or the understanding of self. 

Julian of Norwich, standard-bearer for medieval contemplatives everywhere, had a famous vision.

“And in this he showed me something small, no bigger than a hazelnut, lying in the palm of my hand, as it seemed to me, and it was as round as a ball. I looked at it with the eye of my understanding and thought: What can this be? I was amazed that it could last, for I thought that because of its littleness, it would suddenly have fallen into nothing. And I was answered in my understanding: It lasts and always will, because God loves it; and thus everything has being through the love of God.”

The confines of ego-bound self-understanding have to be stripped away if we are ever to become aware that we are given being, only, as Julian puts it ‘through the love of God’. We have, in words familiar to Bible readers, to put the self to death.

By putting the self to death, Christians believe we can ‘become one’ with God, this makes sense if you think about it in the sense of what Julian talks about – everything has being through the love of God, but we separate, quite literally, ourselves by constructing a self. And it must die.

I’ve really got to find a way
Of taking care of him for good
I know he’d kill me if he could
So I’ll nail him to the wood

Killing my old man
You may not understand
He’s a terrible man
Got to make a stand
And kill the old man

(Bob Hartman)

On the other hand – is this ‘mystical one-ness’ a load of mumbo-jumbo, please have your say…

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2 thoughts on “Hazelnuts, ego, and death

    1. hi, yeah sure – the kind of thing I’m thinking of here would be Galatians 5:24, John 12: 25, and the various verses about picking up one’s cross and so on. I think A W Tozer had a good point when he said: “Among the plastic saints of our times, Jesus has to do all the dying, and all we want to hear is another sermon about his dying.”

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