“Awakening denotes the onset of this period of profound inner development, one motivated by a desire to move from an unconscious identification with an ego-based self-concept into a higher dimension of conscious self-knowing. The major transition we undergo in transformation is from a perception of our self that is informed by the limiting and protecting ego to knowing who we are as an evolving and yet unlimited soul” – Leon VanderPol
It took me most of my life to realize that I had misinterpreted the phrase “Know Thyself”. I had confused knowing ABOUT myself with knowing my Self. I thought my personality, behaviours, beliefs, and accomplishments were who I was. It turns out they were just the inevitable outcome of a program that had been downloaded into me via my childhood experiences and traumas - the ego.
I could have gone my entire life thinking my egoic identity was who I was, but something inside me simply erupted and started driving me towards and ego death that caused a tremendous amount of pain and confusion for myself, but more importantly, the people that loved me.
Awakening to our true essence is anathema to the ego. The ego sees the emergence of the Self in the same way it would see a powerful enemy that was out to destroy it. It will fight to the death for its own existence. In my case, my ego responded to an internal shift that was trying to happen by rallying and amplifying my shadow side (defects of character in 12-Step language) for protection. It made the whole world my enemy and sent me into a spiral of fear, anger, self-destruction, and violence. I was like Gollum from Lord of the Rings trying to hold onto the thing that was killing me; “My precious”
John of the Cross’s poem the “Dark Night of the Soul” is a metaphor for this final battle between the ego and the Self – from the darkness of the ego’s last stand to the light of the infinite soul. A period of intense inner suffering that typically comes before the ascension into the everlasting calm and serenity of the light.
Jesus on the cross, Nanak’s disappearance in the River, Moses in the desert, Arjuna on the battlefield ….this is the Archetypical human experience of Knowing Thyself.
If this sounds like nonsense to you, then maybe it is. I am just trying to make sense of my own experience though a spiritual lens and hoping to share a message that can help others. If it does sound somewhat familiar then my suggestion is to find a community, a guide or support from those who have travelled this path. Find companionship from those whose dark night has turned to the eternal light of the day. They will walk with you till the end of time to help bring you out of your darkness…as will I.
Love, Forgiveness and In Service to Others,