On a trip to Peru with a group who shared my spiritual beliefs, I hiked the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu. Once at the ruins we were given a nontraditional tour by a guide who related the spiritual implications of Machu Picchu; a Quechuan Indian who worked with dreams in the fourth dimension. We listened in fascination as he spoke to us of many things:; the use and purpose of Machu Picchu as a mystical school, kept open until the very end of settlement; the Lemurians, giants eight feet in stature, able to cut the huge stones with lunar rays passing through their bodies into their fingers; and the Incan practice of alchemy and how they dominated the laws of electromagnetism and levitation by drawing upon this energy
While this information was very interesting, we were particularly attentive as he began speaking of the manner in which we transcend earthly laws and grow spiritually through a process of involution. In the Incan culture spiritual evolution is achieved in a three-step process of dying to the ego, gaining wisdom and then sharing it. Gaining wisdom is something that happens as we experience life and better know ourselves, life and the universe. It allows us to see ourselves as an integral part of something greater. “All accumulated knowledge or wisdom, once gained is sacred and must be shared,” he offered. “We come to Earth to live and gain wisdom and then come back to teach and serve but must do so in free will. Wisdom is our goal and we do not receive more wisdom until we give away that which we have gained."
Good or bad, life experience is cumulative, and sharing whatever wisdom is gained in the process is valuable. However, in order to be fully self-actualized, the first step of dying to the ego is not only the most important but makes the other two components much easier. So what exactly does dying to the ego mean? In the Incan culture this process is referred to as cleaning the temple and is symbolized by the condor (God, Source, Universe) swallowing the snake (the human ego). In other words surrender. I don’t know about you, but for me this simple word has been an incredible stumbling block. Until recently, I understood surrender or surrender of the ego as cutting off, disclaiming, squashing or otherwise expunging our ego from ourselves. How is that possible since the ego is who we are, distinguishing us from everyone else?
While struggling with this question, I heard a song by the Highwaymen. Listening to the lyrics I realized that we really don’t see ourselves in a true light; that our ego is not necessarily a true depiction of who we are. The song goes: I was a highwayman. Along the coach roads I did ride – sword and pistol at my side. Many a young maid lost her baubles to my trade. Many a soldier shed his lifeblood on my blade. The bastards hung me in the spring of 25, but I am still alive. The highwayman, insulted by the idea of being hanged, couldn’t honestly see anything about his trade or behavior that would warrant his execution. It made me aware of justified errors, omissions and misconceptions that had clouded my own sense of reality. My crimes were not as great as the highwayman – at least not in this lifetime – but, as a result of this awareness, the illusion of who I thought I was developed a few cracks.
Illusions allow us to believe what we want to, gerrymandering facts and events, ignoring our emotions, in order to cling to a version of ourselves that we want to think we are while avoiding reality. While it is comfortable and safe, it keeps us in dysfunction and makes life more difficult. Dying to the ego requires involution, a process of self-discovery that enables us to face the condor; the reality of ourselves. By dispelling the illusions we bring the ego into balance, merge our male and female aspects and become whole or self-actualized. Once self-actualized, we become able to fully develop our abilities and manifest our ambitions. So how is this process accomplished?
This, the Incans call cleaning the temple, dying to the ego or facing the condor, Jung refers to as a brutal analysis or recognition of self; a process of releasing the complexes, the twists and turns of illusion, that keep us blocked and in dysfunction. Freeing ourselves necessitates a willingness to look in the mirror and not turn away from situations or glimpses that are uncomfortable, distasteful or that we see as negative. It means acknowledging our emotions as the tool they are; using every experience, positive or negative, as an opportunity to know ourselves better; to observe from within our reactions; to face our fears and any other emotions that surface – and look at them honestly. By being truly present in our lives, moment to moment observing our emotions, we can learn to respond instead of react. Free of illusion, self-actualized, life becomes easier. There are still challenges but we see them as opportunities to grow instead of impossible obstacles to our happiness. We move away from the damage and pain of our past and create for ourselves not only the life that we want but the joy that is our birthright.
Dreams can assist with this process, bringing into our awareness the issues hidden in our subconscious that need resolution, helping to release them and showing us the progress we’re making on our journey to wholeness. Keeping a dream journal sends a message to the subconscious that you want to remember your dreams. By recording them, the subconscious will begin creating dreams that are instructive in revealing your illusions and the issues with which you struggle. Brought into your awareness, you are then able to release them, face the condor and the reality of who you truly are; important steps on the road to self-actualization. Additionally, dreams can serve as barometers, letting you know how you’re progressing. While there are many books on dream symbols, and using one is a good place to start, eventually compiling your own, personalized list of symbols is important. Lucid dreaming, being fully aware of the dream as you’re dreaming it and being able to control it, allows access to the subconscious thus expediting the process – and can also be great fun.