Ego has long been associated with the Fall from Grace in the Garden of Eden when Adam and Eve were cast out of paradise for the first sin – giving in to temptation and eating the forbidden fruit from the Tree of Knowledge.
It’s been said over the Ages that this is when humanity lost its innocence and started to detach from God. So does this biblical story explain the origin of ego? We could look at it from the point of view of a puzzling statement that I once read in a spiritual work which said: “We didn’t really fall from grace, we just think we did.”
I realised there may be something in that statement.
The following section is an edited extract from my book, Ego Alchemy – Journey from the lead of ego to the Gold of Soul, which explores this idea – “We didn’t really fall from grace, we just think we did.”
Here is the extract:
A Likely Origin of Ego
How did ego come to dominate our consciousness? Let’s take a spiritual perspective by using the biblical story of Adam and Eve as a metaphor. The story goes they were cast out from the Garden of Eden after eating the forbidden fruit from the Tree of Knowledge.
Before this happened, they were in a state of innocence. But after tasting the fruit they were exposed to the concept of duality. This was more than just the idea of opposites, this is more damaging. It’s about Good and Evil, of something being worthy of love and something being unworthy of love, of punishment and reward, of caring and not caring.
When Adam and Eve lost their innocence they may have felt it as a profound attack of insecurity. Even though they used their free will to make a choice, they became unsettled by a new and uncomfortable feeling and that was doubt. This led to judgmental thinking to explain why they no longer felt certainty.
They would have concluded, for the first time, that God would not be happy with what they had done. They even speculated that God might abandon them. The thought of rejection gave rise to the first ego of fear which spawned defensiveness and hostility.
This opened a Pandora’s Box because it caused a narrowing of understanding. To disassociate from the fear, people came to think that God had an enemy and that this enemy was an equal adversary. The sense of unease grew so people repressed this part of themselves into deeper depths of their being, never to see the light of day. Denial and duplicity where the next cabs off the rank.
The Id was created, a segregated part of the psyche that became the dumping ground for feelings that could not be faced, let alone explained, because they were too painful and confusing. Not understanding the uneasiness, and scared of finding out why, it made sense to externalise everything. It was easier to point a finger at something outside the self and label it bad. Putting blame on others became the most common fear avoidance tactic.
More ego layers settled over the real self (soul) like a shroud. Eventually these layers became so dense that people lost sight of their real selves and soon forgot their true nature. Feeling an identity crisis, they became indignant. Pride took over and set about steering motives and actions in a way that created a separation between self and others. Others got hurt and retaliated. Those on the receiving end didn’t try to understand the cause of the retaliation and labelled the other person bad. They too retaliated and it started the endless tit-for-tat we all know today.
We could have continued on the path of universal love, or, taste its manufactured opposite – the idea that there is something that does not deserve love. So, in our minds love was withdrawn. In that case, we did not have to know ourselves or understand our deeper emotions, that seemed pointless, even too late, plus we feared what we would find.
The unease remained like a layer of dust on the surface of ourselves. Scape-goats were created, and like pass-the-parcel, the truth was avoided. People could not face the truth anyway because by now they no longer recognised it. Offering animal and human sacrifices were an attempt to appease ‘an angry God’.
Creating enemies to fight in conflicts and wars let people cast themselves as having the God-given right to seek justice and victory. The machine of war became an entrenched part of our civilisation and our psyche. Eventually we lost our intimacy with God until He became a warm and fuzzy concept.
Yet ego can’t do away with God completely since religion still survives today. Millions of people still hold faith, we have the Bible and other religious works, miracles have been documented. Prophets have come and gone and left their legacy.
So ego resorts to seeing God as a sentiment. It points a finger at the pain and suffering in the world (which ego has created), and declares that if there was a universal God then why does he allow all these terrible things to happen in the world. This fitted the paradigm of blaming things outside ourselves.
By now the robotic ego behaviour was so entrenched that we saw ourselves as separate from each other. It created insecurities and lack of trust which led to negative experiences. Many people would fall into a victim mentality all their life as they let fear convince them they were powerless.
Since we lost sight of the truth, our only connection with God was through religion. Yet this is a change from a knowing in the heart, to a belief system that depended on followers having blind faith. For that we won the grand prize by becoming utterly dependant upon authority and punitive laws. This resulted in a legal system that encourages a victim/criminal mentality.
Common sense and intuition were systematically devalued. What was really strange was people’s willingness to adopt convoluted and often incoherent laws as a substitute. Naturally it led to the assumption that justice was too complicated for the average person and should be taken out of their hands to be interpreted by experts. It reminds me of that quote by Douglas Bader, World War II Royal Air Force Ace fighter, who said: ‘Rules are for the interpretation of wise men and for the blind obedience of fools.’
Ego is heavily reinforced and fed by our culture which places far too much value on fame and material wealth which are attempts to be separate from others. This creates more alienation as not everyone is motivated to get rich by any means. Since there is no alternative ideal that is given as much credibility, we have learned to put a lid on any part of ourselves that doesn’t conform to this.
Ego’s fear of rejection is so great that our sense of self worth is usually contingent on how well we conform and by approval or recognition from others. The only way ego can pretend to be individual is by acquiring objects to show off and winning in competitive pursuits. Ego is driven to neurosis by the pressure to conform yet straining to be special. When we used our free will to separate from God, our ego grew to fill the gap and fooled us into believing that it is real and that God is unreal.