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From ego to geoego by Stephan Harding

We tend not to like ego in the West.

Ego carries strong connotations of selfishness, and yet we cannot survive without our ego.
Ego allows us to be aware of our world, both inner and outer – it is the place where awareness appears. Ego receives impressions from the outer world of things as well as from the inner world of images, dreams, insights and intuitions.  It is the arena within which our consciousness happens.  Even mystical experiences are received and registered as such within our ego.
Ego in the West has become the be all and end all of life. Our economy is geared up to make us think that there is nothing beyond our ego – it wants to make our ego feel isolated, alone, out of touch with inner landscapes – or rather – with the deep  ‘inscape’  of things which it needs to contact to feel alive - with the physical world as a vibrant, larger  ‘inside’ within which we live and move about. 

Our economy wants us to feel locked up in our ego. It subverts those healing messages from the depths of psyche - from both ‘inner and ‘outer’ worlds that bring ego meaning and emotional energy, replacing these with advertising, convincing us to buy more stuff, as if a new phone could in any way replace the bliss ego feels when it understands the subtleties of music or poetry, or when it senses deep meaning in the sudden appearance of a flock of geese, a rainbow, or a snow storm.

I was pondering all of this recently whilst dwelling in my Gaia spot – that wild place near my house to which I have returned whenever possible over the last twenty seven years to simply sit still to watch and contemplate the changing seasons, the feathered lives of birds as they come and go, and the drifting clouds above.  That day, a light-headed idea sought me out and landed in my awareness, a slight smile on its face. 

Take the word ‘ego’, it said, and loosen the ‘g’ from the grip of the ‘e’ and the ‘o’ which hold it, prisoner-like, at the word’s centre.  Now move the ‘g’ to the left, giving it freedom to become the first letter of a new word.  Thus does ‘ego’ transform into ‘geo’ – the Earth – Gaia – whose more ancient name is ‘Ge’.   I realise that ego has Gaia secreted at its core, put there, perhaps, by some clever code maker who waits for us to uncover this secret.
A pair of bullfinches land near me in the branches of the elder tree which I planted here two decades ago.  They tenderly touch beaks, and I am filled with their beauty – I receive their earthy message of love within this ego of mine, which overflows now with meaning. 

I sense that geo on its own is not enough.  We need ego so that we can receive the messages which geo –Earth, Gaia, Ge, send us – which for me, now, in this moment, take the form of  subtle messages from the bullfinch pair, so tender in the devotion to each other.

A new thought reaches me – whimsical perhaps – but yet worth toying with.  What if we speak not of ego, but of ‘geoego’ – of an ego open to receiving the living world of Gaia into itself along with the deep meaning that Gaia always entails. 

Geoego makes it clear that ego needs geo – that ego without Gaia, without Ge shrivels and collapses into that loneliness and despair which makes us buy things to fill the void. 

‘Geoego’, for me at least, has become a charm against our planet-destroying economy - a magic word that instantly reminds me that I am a Gaian being – born of this Earth, receptive to her physical beauty, to her dreams, to her mysterious creativity. Geoego brings me back into the deepest heart of this living world.

Dr Stephan Harding is author of Animate Earth and co-ordinates and teaches on the MSc Holistic Science.  He is also teaching on the forthcoming short course Mind, Matter, Life with Fritjof Capra.