Thomas Keating, Invitation to Love: The Way of Christian Contemplation. New York: Continuum, 1995. 151 pages
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Chapter 6. Mental Egoic Consciousness
Mental egoic consciousness is the latest stage of human development but it is not very effectively employed by most of us. Instead of using this capacity to go beyond the fear, guilt, and hypocrisy of mythic membership consciousness, "we use our newfound intellectual powers to rationalize, justify, and even glorify our emotional programs and the false values of the culture." We reinforce self-centered motivation.
The problem is that we have come to full reflective self-consciousness without union with God, from Whom we are alienated as we are from others and from nature; not having easy intimacy with God and nature, we are incomplete and afraid. Jesus on the cross is a symbol of our condition: "we cannot regress to primal innocence and the irresponsibility of animal life, and we cannot rise under our own power to higher states of consciousness."
So we must rediscover our connectedness to God which we lost in early childhood. To do so we must shift our attitude away from self-concern and personal identity and toward larger concerns. To love one's neighbor as oneself means to respect the rights and needs of others. "Love one another as I have loved you" suggests even higher levels of motivation.
St. Paul spoke of the old Adam and the new Adam (Christ), using the Greek word "sarx" to mean the body and psyche locked together at the present level and "soma" to indicate the way to further human development through the emergence of mental egoic consciousness.
"The mental egoic level is the level of the full emergence of moral responsibility for our behavior and relationships. It is the level of true conscience." It leads us to a sense of equality with others, concern for the earth, further human growth, and a more mature relationship with God. The false self can still co-opt these gifts and there is need for purification of the unconscious and the growth of self-knowledge; but the person also experiences greater harmony, peace, belonging, compassion, insight, spiritual consolations, and psychic gifts.