The Ego Machine
A Creation Story
This is how the ego machines came to be. An unbounded awareness decided, à propos of nothing, to limit itself to know awareness of something, even if it was only itself. But how to notice water if you are a fish swimming in a deep and empty ocean? The awareness fashioned a hollow sphere into which it climbed and then sealed with a riveted hatch. The sphere’s inhabitant also fashioned an optical apparatus to see outside. Now that it was apart from itself, the awareness wanted to observe what was outside itself. What a surprise! The universe was full of things. The awareness was no longer alone and had much to be aware of. The optical apparatus saw objects and other mechanisms which, it speculated, also housed awareness. Where did they come from? Where did I come from?vThe awareness had no memory prior to encasing itself in the sphere. Maybe it had limited itself many times before? So many questions! A universe of interesting things existed beyond the sphere’s confines. The awareness wanted to experience everything. It rummaged in the things of the world and fashioned a recording apparatus that engraved what it encountered onto a spinning disc. This was a wonderful idea for beautiful things, it had discovered, did not endure. The apparatus preserved beautiful and pleasurable things found. It also recorded ugly and painful things. All experiences were valuable.
Whereas much in the world left the mechanism alone, many things wanted to harm it. The awareness enjoyed existing and avoided these things. The mechanism’s unique viewpoint let the recording apparatus fashion and engrave on the disc, memories all about itself. How interesting, it thought trundling over the landscape. I am recording my story. I can see from the beginning of my story right until now. Soon, the awareness found its story more interesting than the things in the world and spent more and more time contemplating all the priceless and interesting memories scored onto the disc’s tracks. As all the memories were about it and its story, they were much more interesting than all the sights and sounds from the world. Imagine walking into a library and picking up a book all about you. Wouldn’t this be the most interesting book ever? Soon, it was even an effort to look up, for the world did not appear half as interesting as the thoughts and feelings spawned by the disc. It makes sense to be interested only in things about me, the awareness thought to itself even though much of what occupied it concerned past things which no longer existed and future things which did not yet exist. The awareness forgot how to raise the optical apparatus and lost itself in the interminable stream of images, sights, and sounds churned out by the disc.
Awareness housed itself in a mechanism that ages and breaks. The disc grinds to a halt and, like a child’s spinning top, the mechanism comes to rest. The riveted hatch falls open and awareness leaves the hollow sphere to return to the no-thing place. There is much fear beforehand because losing everything recorded on the disc is the worst thing in the world. Nothing in the world is as valuable as all it has seen, all it has done and all it has been. All recordings, whether unhappy and fraught with suffering or joyful, become dust as the mechanism decays. This is the normal order of things so that, in the main, aside from the stories engraved on the spinning discs, the machines do not differ. However, there is variation. Infrequent but possible is a curious state of affairs where the sphere containing awareness is subject to some fault of manufacture. Unequal strains and stresses force the hatch to pop open and, although the awareness leaves the sphere, the mechanism remains active and trundles over the landscape until death. These unpiloted devices cause many of the world’s problems. Much more infrequent is an optical apparatus which, for diverse reasons, cannot focus on the ego disc; the encapsulated awareness gazes upwards at nothing. These faulty machines do not last long, and their demise is tragic and spectacular.
A Message from Hell
Enlightenment is an awareness of the crystalline purity of interstellar space. Spiritual enlightenment is a state of bliss, and an existence untainted by the suffering caused by the ego. The pursuit of true reality is the only worthwhile endeavour. This was my belief, though in my muddled thinking before sleep, it occurred that finding absolute reality might be the worst thing. What if the mind creates everyday reality to escape unendurable torment?
Enclosed spaces fill me with dread. I might awaken from the dream of reality and find myself encased in a mountain of granite. Rock presses against my eyes. Though I can move my fingertips enough to feel rock texture, I cannot scratch with my nails. The immensity of stone above crushes me; rock seals me like an amber fixed primordial insect.Horror overcomes me. My mind breaks and I moan. A torrent of hysterical delusion becomes my comfortable and dull reality, so I forget the darkness and live in delirium. What if enlightenment and the absolute reality I have sought all my life is Hell?
I want to scream but cannot take a breath. Though my chest strains to suck in air, the rock encasing my rib-cage allows the shallowest of inhalations. I am in a constant state of near suffocation. The memories of how many times my chest has swelled with exultation and the deep gulps of air following a hard-won race, or a mountain conquered, are another torture vying with the rest for attention.
I long sought the state of enlightenment. My twin goals, to achieve universal oneness and to obliterate my ego, have obsessed me for as long as I can remember. How many hours did I dedicate to meditation and reflection? Ennui, boredom and a tedious existence prompted my quest. That and my absurd notion that enlightenment was another mountain conquered by the strength of my determination. I pursued enlightenment with the same fervour I pursued every goal, whether it was a woman or the defeat of an enemy. I thought myself equal to every challenge.
The knowledge that nothing can change fills me with unbearable desperation. My imprisonment is unending. When the stars die, I must endure. I know this to be true because a perfect hell cannot allow hope. If the smallest movement was possible, then I could hope. Though hundreds or millions of miles of rock lay between me and freedom, a single fingernail scratching the surface for millions of years could enlarge the space large enough to take a breath. Another eternity might see me tunnelling to freedom. Yet, I cannot make the most infinitesimal of movements. The cycle of suffering is perfect and complete because the architect of my suffering knows me.
I suspect I am not alone. I hear sighs and groans. Others suffer in this rock, maybe inches or thousands of miles away. Every thousand years a soul gathers enough breath to utter a single moan or sigh. I listen, and the silence returns. I am not comforted because I cannot be sure it is not my own sighs I hear.
I often question whether my previous life existed? Did I manufacture everything? My head is full of memories, though they need not be mine. They must come from somewhere. Were they placed in my head? For what reason? Why create a means to escape this torment, if only for a while? The obvious answer is to increase my suffering. I remember reading an essay on the joy of creation. All the diversity of life expresses this joy. As an artist and writer, I took part in that joy. If an entity can revel in the joy of creation, then cannot an entity made of diabolical stuff revel in creating unendurable suffering? For this is art. The art of suffering. My intuition tells me I put myself here, and I am the author of my suffering. I crafted my Hell with love and care.
It is strange to think I once wrote and illustrated a story describing this very scenario. It did not occur to me that my inspiration was anything other than morbid caprice. I experimented with using the ego machine device to think and write about enlightenment. I wrote a fragment of what might have been a larger work and illustrated it with an ego machine embedded in rock. The visual funnel encodes nothing on the ego disc because it can see nothing. Delusions dredged from the ego disc fill the sphere of awareness. The encoding arm reinforces the madness by writing back to the disc. There is no relief, and the mechanism knows only self-sustaining delirium. The conceit appealed to me. It modelled the narcissism I have seen in young children and old men. Now, I have become the subject of my creation. The author of my suffering has a sense of humour, for in writing and illustrating the story, I have crafted my torment. I assembled, with each word and every brushstroke, my adamantine prison.
I know with every laboured breath that I am imprisoned in stone, yet everything I perceive comes from the ego disc. My existence in stone and my earthly life come from different disc sectors. I create and sustain my hell. This knowledge provides neither relief nor comfort. Agony is agony regardless of its origin.
To my reader, I say to you that your comfortable, humdrum life is a delusion you retreat to in the madness of despair. In reality, rock confines you forever. You snatch slight breaths at the behest of a demon who thrives on agony. Dear reader, it is too late to put down this work. Your mind will adopt the idea, nourish it and let it carve out an existence that will stain the rest of your days. The idea will find space in your mind to grow and become as real as any memory. This knowledge will make no difference to you if you are already one of the unnumbered souls sharing this granite mountain with me. Though you may sigh and suffer here, you might be secure in your delusion. You need never awake, as I did to the genuine nature of enlightenment. You will live and die in dreams. Learn contentment and never follow a yearning for something more. Live your small, humble life and oblivion will claim you. Seek nothing, pray for nothing beyond what your senses give you, and God willing, you will never wake here. You cannot bear true awareness. It will blast your mind.
I know with every laboured breath that I am imprisoned in stone, yet everything I perceive comes from my ego disc. My existence in stone and my earthly life are from me; I create and sustain my hell. This knowledge provides neither relief nor comfort. Agony is agony regardless of its origin. Before the strength of my despair breaks my mind, I am granted an awareness of how many millions of times I have awoken here. Each time I pray for the strength of will to recall this moment and to abandon my search for enlightenment when I return to my dreams, but I will not, and if this Hell is to be perfect, I understand that I cannot.
The descent into comfortable madness is the lowering of a phonograph needle onto a record. The needle lifts at the end only to travel to the record beginning moments later. My awakening happens in those moments between starting and ending. I awaken and shriek. I try to take another breath, but the stone encasing my chest prevents me. The scales drop from my eyes, and I face reality in all its purity and horror. Insanity follows. The whole ghastly cycle of delusion and suffering starts again. I awakened from a disturbing dream. The details flee, but I recall terror and suffocation. I speculate on the cause and decide that a memory of a whooping cough episode I experienced as a child responsible. I turn once again to my studies that will one day lead to my enlightenment.
© Copyright 2016 Mark Peatfield