The obstructive nature of ego is not in that ego is egoistic or selfish, but that it likes to see everything in the best possible light.  It often also likes to see others in the best light and not just itself.  It prefers an aestheticized and superficial experience above all.  When it encounters difficulties or hard questions, it will try to turn these into matters of superficiality.  It will move so swiftly that these questionable matters or profound problems do not even enter consciousness.

Ego defends itself against the knowledge of anything that isn’t beautiful — and some people are better artists than others.

That’s why death is so important to the shamanic project, because it is the quintessential “not beautiful”.  To write shamanically is to accept those things that are ugly and to work to integrate them into the the “everything” that is life.

This automatically invites the wrath of those who are compelled to live on the surface for whatever reason.   They may be stuck there because life has become too painful to look at in its depths.  Or, they are at war, and the ego — which is an energy-saving device — has shut off any superfluous energetic engagement with the world, so that they can focus on being at war.

The level of emotional health that any person has (and also at any one time), will have to do with how much of the ugly they are able to take in and sublimate (turn it into something necessary and true, if not quite beautiful).  That doesn’t mean we have to embrace crude and stupid things, but if something raises a question for us, we should be able to have the courage and whatever else it takes to look more deeply into it.

And that’s when ego cuts in and becomes obstructive.  We want to embrace the illusion that we are living in pleasant circumstances, because that is rewarding.  It refreshes us and gives us a buzz.

We like optimistic, happy stories with a promissory note, encouraging us to believe that if only we are sincere and stick to our chosen path, life will reward us.  We also like outrageous Oprah Winfreyesque success stories.  And we get dismayed when others tell us this isn’t how life is.

We like pretty illusions and happy endings.   Unlike shamanic types who are realists and face up to deadly experiences.


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