“The caterpillar is to the butterfly as an uninitiated ego is to an initiated one. The imaginal buds are to the caterpillar as the soul is to the uninitiated ego.” ~ Bill Plotkin
Lo, the terribly beautiful ego. The dangerously comforting ego. The grievously insecure ego. It rears its head in so many different ways. In its simplest form, the ego is just the self. But the self is anything but simple.
The self is multilayered, holding both trustworthy and nefarious aspects. It is stretched out over a plethora of states, some in which we are directly aware of (consciousness), others in which we are indirectly aware of (subconscious and unconscious), and others still in which we probably can’t even fathom.
Yes, the rabbit hole goes deep. But what the uninitiated ego doesn’t realize is: the rabbit hole is the self.
Essentially, an uninitiated ego is an ego that is unaware of itself as an individuated, self-actualized force in an interdependent cosmos. Whereas an initiated ego is aware of itself as an individuated, self-actualized force in an interdependent cosmos.
Of course, no ego is ever completely uninitiated or initiated. Just as no ego is ever completely individuated or self-actualized. Everything falls on a spectrum of possibility and probability in response to action or the lack thereof, including self-flourishing.
At the end of the day, the ego is a spectrum, and the probability of our becoming initiated or remaining uninitiated is a matter of self-motivation, imagination, and action. Much work must be completed. From unlearning what we’ve learned to reconditioning our own conditioning to reprogramming our initial programming. As the mystic Nisargadatta said, “The other world is this world rightly seen.”
This article will discuss three huge stumbling blocks on the path from uninitiated ego to initiated ego.
Getting past these blocks won’t necessarily guarantee a successful initiation, but one must get past them at some point in order to achieve an initiation at all. Let’s break it down.
Pitfall #1.) Taking things too personally:
“One man’s magic is another man’s engineering.” ~ Robert A. Heinlein
While the initiated one frees him/herself within the throes of “telling the story,” the uninitiated one is caught in the throes of the “story being told.”
When it comes down to it, our sense of self is a story being told. But most of us, the uninitiated egos, are not even aware that we are the ones who are telling it. When we’re unaware that we are telling our own story of self, there is a tendency for us to take things too personally.
Our ego takes offense to any given situation. We feel wronged by fate and slighted by the pettiness of others. We feel offended by the actions of others even when those others aren’t even acting against us.
This happens because the uninitiated ego tends to be codependent, and is typically raised within a codependent state. The most common theme of codependency is an excessive reliance on other people for approval and a sense of identity. There’s the tendency for the codependent, uninitiated ego to take things too personally because one’s sense of identity is wrapped up in the approval of others.
There’s also the tendency to feel slighted by fate instead of taking responsibility for reconditioning one’s own conditioning. But as Carl Jung intuited, “Until you make the unconscious conscious, it will direct your life and you will call it fate.”
One effective method toward not taking things too personally may be freeing ourselves into telling our own story instead of merely being caught in the story being told. Look at it like the difference between just dreaming and lucid dreaming. In a non-lucid dream, we are puppets to fate.
Even our emotions are compromised, and we cannot leverage our disposition. But in a lucid dream we have power over our faculties and our emotional disposition is under our control. We control our fate, or at least we control our reaction to our fate.
Similarly, the initiated ego telling the story of the self is like a lucid dreamer dreaming, whereas the uninitiated ego is all tangled up in being a victim of the dreamstate to be aware of its own power. Initiated ego is to lucid dreamer as uninitiated ego is to non-lucid dreamer.
Where the non-lucid dreamer takes the dream personally and reacts emotionally by playing the victim, the lucid dreamer takes the dream as it is and reacts courageously by playing the hero.
So it is in waking life with the initiated versus the uninitiated ego. The initiated ego engagingly emits its own frequency, thus imprinting its intent on the universe; whereas the uninitiated ego unwittingly absorbs the frequencies around it, thus being imprinted by the universe.
Pitfall #2.) Taking things too literally:
“If the doors of perception were cleansed everything would appear to man as it is, Infinite.” ~ William Blake
Just as the uninitiated ego loves to play the victim, it also loves to play the obedient sycophant. Instead of taking things figuratively and using their imagination, those with uninitiated egos would rather take things literally and allow someone else to do their thinking for them.
They would rather not go through the sometimes arduous task of questioning things. Instead of simply taking things into consideration and moving on with their knowledge in tow, those with uninitiated egos would rather put all their eggs in one or two baskets and then take those baskets as the be all end all, literal truth.
Taking things too literally and forsaking imagination is dangerous because it leads to close-mindedness and extremism. It limits inspiration. It shuts down progressive conversation. It murders metaphor and slays the symbolic, reducing a beautiful multicolored universe to a black and white cliché.
The mind’s eye slams shut when the uninitiated ego decides to take things too literally. Ingenuity and the powers of invention become handicapped by the fetters of exactitude.
Better to be vague and open than exact and closed off. Better to be uncertain and flexible than certain and dogmatic. Better to be undefined and adaptable than definite and fixed. The initiated ego knows this to be true.
The uninitiated ego fights against this truth by taking things to literally in its vain attempt to pigeonhole infinity into a tiny, egocentric, human-centered box. Better to allow reality to be infinite and attempt to blossom out of that box, to flourish forth despite finitude, rather than wallow in the literalness of the box. Indeed. Reality is too important to be taken literally.
Pitfall #3.) Taking things too seriously:
“Life is too important to be taken seriously.” ~ Oscar Wilde
This is the biggest pitfall of them all, because it is so easy to take things too seriously. It is so easy to reduce the cosmic joke down to an egocentric tragedy.
And the uninitiated ego yearns to take itself seriously most of all. It fearfully props itself up inside the safety of its own comfort zone, taking its own security too seriously. It struts invulnerably across a precarious stage, not realizing that vulnerability is the truer courage.
Not realizing, as Brene Brown intuited, “You can have courage or you can have comfort, but you can’t have both.”
The uninitiated ego flounders in self-seriousness, stumbling and fumbling through the urgency of it all. Solemnly it slithers, crushed by the weightiness of an unforgiving universe, not realizing that all it has to do is the hardest thing a human being can do: let go!
Have a laugh. Make fun of the small-minded self. Poke holes in all the self-important ideals. Burst the burgeoning bubble of the blustering ego. Reimagine imagination. Have some fun.
The initiated ego has developed strategies for letting go: high humor, sacred laughter, and non-attachment. Where the uninitiated ego wallows in the ennui and nihilism that inevitably spills over from the overfilled cup of seriousness, the initiated ego howls with joy and existential masochism by filling the cup up only so much and then emptying it, over and over again. Fill cup, empty cup; hold on, let go. Breathe in, breathe out.
The initiated ego is counter-intuitively bigger than the uninitiated ego, but it is healthier from having stretched its own comfort zone over and over again. It is healthier precisely because it doesn’t take itself too seriously, rather it sincerely flourishes.
By doing so, it goes from being a tiny uninitiated ego trapped in a tiny comfort zone to being a big initiated ego liberated into interdependence with all things. It becomes a force of nature first, ego second.
From ‘victim of the world’ to ‘becoming the world.’ From sycophantic stooge to transcendent sage. From self-serious smallness to a flourishing self-overcoming. The path from uninitiated ego to initiated ego is not an easy one, but, as Spinoza articulated, “All things excellent are as difficult as they are rare.”