Collapse / Rebirth – Part 1

The removal of the ego is the sine qua non for the resolution of the current multifaceted crisis.

Collapse / Rebirth – Part 1


The 21st century will be spiritual or it won’t be.

André Malraux


What the caterpillar calls “catastrophe”, the visionary calls it “butterfly”.

Chinese saying


I turn on a tap and cold or hot water, perfectly drinkable, flows in abundance. I press a switch at the end of the day and a light comes on instantly, illuminating all my activities as late at night as necessary. Autumn and winter are approaching? A gentle warmth escapes from the radiators without my having to make the slightest move to do so. I travel by car, use a lot of electrical devices that are supposed to make my life easier, communicate in real time with the whole world, etc. I am also a very active person. All of this is a staggering luxury, unimaginable only a century ago – a nod to the history of homo sapiens.

But all my material benefits come at a price: the enslavement of three-quarters of humanity, condemned to poverty, hunger, epidemics of all kinds, exodus, social instability and violence; the devastation of forests, the general disruption of the climate, the death of the oceans, the growing sterility of the soil, etc. All this was also unimaginable only a century ago.

I live in this Western civilization, I belong to it physically and culturally, I benefit from its advantages, I suffer from its disadvantages. It is “my” civilization. I am one with it, for better or for worse. I, therefore share fully, jointly and severally, the responsibility for its impact on the planet and on humanity.

It is our need for security itself that has thrown us into such global danger. The predominance of comfort over ethics, of immediate enjoyment over spirituality, has dug our collective grave. We have fallen into a trap of our own making.

Of course, the current state of multifaceted crisis blindly pushes us to look for those responsible, for those who are guilty: political leaders, industrial lobbies, globalized finance, “shadow government”, etc. We are thus trying to get rid of our own share of responsibility, to blame it on authorities, on institutions whose representatives we have elected. But we all participate in this civilization, in its values, in its way of organizing life on earth.

The values that underlie our civilization (infinite growth, individualism, competition, mastery of nature), can be summed up in a single word: the ego. The ego eager for growth on all levels, indifferent to the suffering of others, very attentive to its own and quick to curb it as soon as it appears, by all the means at its disposal, whatever the price to be paid (preferably by others), whatever the consequences for the planet. The ego is voluntarily blind to its own finitude, to its mortality, obsessed by its immediate interest, possibly at the expense of everything and everyone.

The pleasures and distractions “secreted” by our civilization are only the hollow expression of a flight from suffering, a refusal of the obvious, a denial of death. Paradoxically, this “civilization of the ego” considerably increases the overall suffering of the world and of humanity, including within it; it reveals a little more each day its flaws and contradictions, and spreads death over all that it monopolizes.

The ego is predatory by nature. Its thirst for power, wealth, recognition, pleasure is inextinguishable. It devours in order to grow; it is inscribed in its DNA. The crisis we are going through is not due to a failing political organization, the corruption of elected officials, the conquering aggressiveness of large industrial groups, the greed of bankers and shareholders, the waste and ecological irresponsibility of everyone, the resurgence of religious fanaticism, or nationalist and identity-based retreats. No, all these clearly observable manifestations are only symptoms of a deeper evil, of a universally widespread and devastating virus: the ego.

One of the peculiarities of this “virus” is that it remains ignored by those who are most affected by it. Hidden deep within the human being, it remains inaccessible to his gaze as long as he remains turned outward. Another of its peculiarities is that it seems inherent to the human being, as an intrinsic component. But another intrinsic component of the human species is its search for the truth about life, its life. From time immemorial, on all the continents of our planet, spiritual seekers from all walks of life have allowed themselves to be troubled by essential questions, have torn themselves away from the bewitching seduction of appearances, and have gradually learned to turn their gaze inward, thus uncovering the cause of all their ills.

The annihilation of the ego is a constant in all spiritual paths. In every age, in every place, there is a “small number” of individuals concerned. But viewed from the perspective of several millennia and on a planetary scale, these truth-seekers constitute an impressive “mass”. Some of them have left traces (oral traditions, writings, monuments…), others have not. They have not solved the problems of their time, of their civilization; nor have they embraced its dreams and ambitions; they have simply ceased to fuel the cause within themselves. A few have testified to this inner realization through teachings that have sometimes had a strong impact on the beliefs and representations of the human species. Most have testified to it simply by their state of being, by a radically different attitude towards events and their contemporaries.

(To be continued in part 2)

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Date: April 1, 2020
Author: Jean Bousquet (Switzerland)
Photo: Unsplash CCO

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