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Spirituality: The Ego and the Pain-Body

April 12, 2013

powerofnow bookThe concepts of the ego and the pain-body are discussed a lot by Eckhart Tolle, and other people with this idea of new-age spirituality. I read through some of the books of Tolle a few years back, and I think there is much of value in them. What I cannot quite come to grips with is how no positive notion of freedom is given to us for this life. We are to become less attached to our pain-body and our ego, through meditation, transformation, and such means. Fair enough, this is good and tells us what to avoid, but what is the positive goal here?

We have freedom from these things, but freedom for what, and freedom to do what? For me, I want to understand freedom as a positive thing to experience, not just in a spiritual moment of the now, but also in communion with others. Freedom, not just as a conceptual negation of all the things around me, but as a positive meaning and attachment to some of the things around me.

I think this view of Tolle’s, can ultimately be accused of too much of an emphasis on the individual psychological perspective. In truth, we live not just for the moment. But for others, for meaning, and for a story that we can be a part of. There is a whole context here. And not all of it is bad stuff, like the ego and pain-body may be. Some of our context is good for us, helps to give us freedom and can be an empowering force in our lives. I appreciate the value of Tolle’s methods for lessening attachment to the pain-body and the ego. But when he presents his views as an ontological understanding of what ultimately exists in the world, I find it to be very barren, and to not give us something positive to begin to develop an empowering notion of our selves in the world.

I simply cannot accept that my ultimate goal as a human being is the purely negative one of being free of karma, and to be in a state of complete unattachment from my ego, pain-body etc, free-floating in the now, the present moment, to reach a nirvana-like state. Rather, I believe my goal as a human being is to achieve certain positive things with my life, that I can be proud of, and that can be the source of meaning in my life. My goal is to offer my whole being to this world in playing out my own personal story, till I have nothing left to give. Not to retreat from the world and dismiss it all as pain-body or ego.

We have the whole of the time we are dead, and the whole of the time before we were born to be unattached to this world. For the bit of time I am alive and living in it, I want to be attached to it, and to express myself within it. This is what positive spiritual freedom should consist in for me.

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