Monday, August 14, 2006

Discovery of the "Soul"

In his book We, Zamyatin does a masterful job of conveying the painful process the main character D-503 undergoes as he discovers he has a "soul." In this process there is a repeated swinging of the pendulum from confusion and delusion, to clarity and reason. A set of extremely powerful beliefs, with which the egoic mind had deeply identified itself through conditioning and circumstance, begin to give way and crumble. And with the falling away of these conceptual structures there is the attendant belief that the ego or sense of "self" will also cease to exist. I am reminded of the excellent quote by Karlfried Graf D├╝rckheim, "Only to the extent that we expose ourselves over and over again to annihilation, can that which is indestructible arise within us."

But the egoic mind is uncooperative of its own demise, and so there is a flurry of activity to shore up resources, barricade and prevent the ego's dissolution. There is a deep need to explain, justify, and defend—awash in a mood of impending doom. And this freneticism lends itself to a certain failure in reason, and the consequent birth of profound delusion, where everything that happens becomes living proof of the conspiracy against oneself. Where one cannot draw a breath without knowing it is part of the plot. D-503's continually shifting perceptions lend a certain surreal quality to his reality, where he is unsure of what is real and what is illusion.

On a parallel note, it seems that every society suffers from the same predicament of egoic enslavement of reason, will, soul, imagination. It is only the particulars that vary. And so it seems that the true measure of a society is the extent to which it provides suitable structures to aid its members in the supreme task of extricating oneself from the heavy yoke of the ego.

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