This lesson is excerpted from Lightning Path Workbook One: The Basics.
In this article, we are going to introduce four key concepts. The first and most important concept we are going to introduce and discuss is “connection.” Connection is a very important spiritual and human development topic. In fact, connection is the most important concept that you have to understand, and the most important thing you must accomplish, if you want to make good forward progress towards manifesting your full human potential. The questiion at this pint becomes, what is connection?
Before you can understand what is meant by connection, you have to understand three related key concepts, these being the Physical Unit, the Bodily Ego, and the Spiritual Ego. Let us spend a few moments going over each. Once you understand these three concepts, we can use these concepts to explain the basics of connection.
The concept of the physical unit is relatively straight forward. Your physical unit is your physical body.1 The physical unit consists of all the physical components of the physical body, including your arms, legs, eyes, ears, and internal organs. The physical unit also includes the brain, the central nervous system, and the mind that emerges from the brain and keeps it all going.
The brain and central nervous system of the physical unit is very special. This brain of the physical unit can be seen as a very sophisticated computer. Just like a silicon computer, your body’s computer, your brain, has many programs and algorithms (i.e. instincts, reflexes, and autonomic responses) which allow it to breathe, digest, operate, and stay safe in the environment. For example, as Sigmund Freud pointed out over a century ago, your body has a program that tells it to avoid pain and seek pleasure. If your body experiences pain of any sort, emotional or physical avoidance algorithms will be automatically activated and your body will withdraw from and avoid the pain. Likewise, when your physical unit experiences pleasures, emotional and physical attraction mechanisms will be activated that will cause your body to want more.
As noted, your brain is a very sophisticated computer that has many algorithms and programs. However, the brain of your body is much more than a typical silicon-based modern computer. In fact, the hardware and programming of the human brain is far more sophisticated than even the most advanced supercomputer. The brain and CNS of your physical unit is so sophisticated and so beyond anything available in silicon chips right now that the brain’s hardware and software actually develop a sense of ego-identity, a sense of “I am.” The bodily ego is the sense of identity that emerges as a result of the complicated neurological operations of your brain. 2
In addition to your bodily ego, which emerges from the hardware and software of your physical brain, you also have a Spiritual Ego. Your spiritual ego is that part of your identity that does not emerge from the neurological operations of your brain, and that is not tied to your physical body, or material reality. Your spiritual ego is what some might call your “soul” or your “Atman” or your Highest Self.3
The spiritual ego is that part of you that is independent of your physical body and that goes on existing even after the death of your physical body and the extinction of your bodily ego.
You can wrap your head around the concepts of physical unit, bodily ego, and spiritual ego if you consider the metaphor of an autonomous, self-driving vehicle. An autonomous vehicle is a car with a computer and software programs. The computer and software of the self-driving vehicle contains various programs and algorithms that manage and monitor the vehicle, and that help make it all go. In the case of a self-driving vehicle, the car’s computer is powerful enough, and the software is sophisticated enough, that the car is able to monitor its own conditions (i.e., it can alert you when you need oil or gas or when something else is wrong) and even drive itself around. In fact, in modern self-driving cars, the computer and software are sophisticated enough that we might say that car has an Artificial Intelligence or AI which makes it all go.
With the image of a self-driving car in mind, you can think of your physical body like a self-driving car and your bodily ego like the software that runs on the car’s computer and makes it all go. You can think of your spiritual ego as the driver that gets into the “car” (your physical body) and uses the body to drive around on the roads of reality. Just like the car’s computer contains programs that monitor the car and make it all go, your body’s brain contains programs that monitor your body and make it all go. Just like the car’s computer programs can use GPS and sensing equipment to drive itself around on the roads, your bodily ego can use its instincts, drives, defences, and so on (its programs) to monitor and drive itself around on the roads of reality.
Now that you understand the physical unit as a physical vehicle, your bodily ego as the software that runs and drives the vehicle, and your spiritual ego (your soul) as the driver of the vehicle, it is possible to understand what connection is all about. To understand what connection is, think about what the experience of driving an autonomous physical vehicle would be like. When using an autonomous motor vehicle to get around, you could drive the vehicle or you could let the vehicle’s programs, the vehicle AI, drive itself. If you are not driving the vehicle, if you are sleeping or reading a book and letting the car monitor the roads and drive itself, we would say you are disconnected from the vehicle. However, if you wake up and take the wheel of the vehicle, we would say you are then connected to the vehicle.
This is what connection means. When you are connected, the driver, your Highest Self, your soul/atman, takes control of the vehicle. You take control of your physical unit by waking up, paying attention, and grasping the wheel. When your spiritual ego, your highest self, is awake, attentive, and in control, we can say that the spiritual ego is connected to the vehicle. By the same token, we can say if the spiritual ego is not attentive and in control of its physical unit, if it is daydreaming, lost in some blissful fantasy, or simply letting the body go on “auto-pilot,” it is disconnected from the physical unit. While disconnected, it is the bodily ego, the vehicle software, that drives the vehicle.
The metaphor of the autonomous vehicle is a great way to wrap your head around the basic ideas of spiritual ego, bodily ego, physical unit, and connection; however, you can only get so far in your understanding of connection with this metaphor, because there are important differences between the vehicle, its programs, and the driver, and your physical unit, your bodily ego, and your spiritual ego.
One important difference between the car and your body is that the bodily ego of your physical unit is far more sophisticated than the programs of an autonomous vehicle. Even though we might call the computer programs of an autonomous vehicle an “artificial intelligence,” it is really not. The programs that make a car go are just that, programs. They may be adaptive and sophisticated, but they are just programs. By contrast, the bodily ego of your physical unit is smarter, more sophisticated, and more capable than the AI of a car. This sophistication derives, as already noted, from the sophisticated hardware4 and software of the brain, both of which have been refined over millions of years of species evolution.
Another important difference that makes the metaphor of the autonomous vehicle hard to hold onto is the sense of “I” that is developed by the bodily ego. A normal set of programs no matter how sophisticated, no matter how much we want to call it “intelligent,” does not have a sense of “I” and is not self-aware. However, the bodily ego can develop a sense of self and identity. The bodily ego can, and does, become self-aware. The brain of your physical unit is so evolved, the hardware is so sophisticated, and the programming so refined, that the bodily ego which emerges from the brain can feel and think “I Am” in the same way your spiritual ego feels and thinks “I am.” In other words, your bodily ego has its own sense of identity. The same cannot be said of a vehicle AI which, when compared to the bodily ego, looks more like a primitive basic program than an actual intelligent entity.5
A third way the bodily ego of your physical unit is different than the AI of an autonomous vehicle is that the bodily ego is highly sensitive and responsive to experience, both internal and external. The bodily ego is designed, for survival reasons, to be in tune with and responsive to the external environment in which it lives, and also the internal environment of the physical unit (blood pressure, temperature, feelings, etc.). The sensitivity of the bodily ego to the environment, to experience, and to its own internal environment is a good thing because it means the bodily ego can monitor, modify, learn, adapt, and grow in ways beyond what a simple AI could. This learning and growth is good for survival reasons because it means the bodily ego can respond and adapt in a sophisticated and intelligent manner to the environment, even when the environment changes.
As we see, the metaphor of the autonomous vehicle is a good way to start understanding the relationship between spiritual ego, bodily, ego, and connection, but it breaks down when you consider the fact that the bodily ego is far more sophisticated than the AI programs of a physical vehicle.
Besides the sophistication of the bodily ego, there is also another important wrinkle that causes the autonomous vehicle metaphor to breakdown, and that is in the way connection works between the two. Above we noted that when a driver takes control of an autonomous vehicle by grabbing the wheel, the driver becomes connected and in control of that car. This same sort of thing happens when the spiritual ego connects with the physical unit, the body, except that in the case of the spiritual ego and bodily ego, there is an actual, psychological merge that occurs.
When speaking about the driver of a vehicle and the vehicle AI, the driver is not actually connecting with or merging with the AI. The driver is just grabbing the steering wheel. However, this is not what happens when the spiritual ego connects to the bodily ego of the physical unit. When the spiritual ego connects to the bodily ego, the spiritual ego begins to “fill the vessel” with Consciousness and merge with the physical vehicle, specifically the bodily ego. When this connection occurs, there is an actual physical/neurological union that occurs. This union observably activates brain neurology resulting in the expansion of bodily consciousness. This connection, this activation, is felt by the bodily ego as a change of consciousness, as a movement away from Normal Consciousness. That is, when you connect, you feel like something is going on because there is a noticeable shift in the way you think, feel, and perceive. Suddenly, you no longer feel in a “normal” space.
We call this significant change of consciousness caused by the actual, but temporary, union of spiritual ego with the bodily ego of the brain, temporary as it may be in the beginning, a Connection Experience.6 When the bodily ego and spiritual ego connect, the individual has a phenomenologically verifiable connection experience.7
What happens when you make a connection? What does connection mean to the physical unit, the bodily ego, and the spiritual ego?
To understand all this we have to move beyond the autonomous vehicle metaphor and introduce another metaphor, the Water Glass Metaphor. To understand what happens when your bodily ego and spiritual ego connect, to understand what happens when you have a connection experience, think of your physical unit8 like a water glass and your spiritual ego, your higher Consciousness, as water that fills the glass. If you think of the pure consciousness of your spiritual ego like water, and if you think of your physical unit as a mostly empty glass of water, when connection occurs, the water of your higher consciousness begins to fill the glass of your physical unit.
And that is all there is to it. At this point, you know what the bodily ego is, what spiritual ego is, and what connection is.
You know the bodily ego is like the artificial intelligence in an autonomous vehicle. Just like the AI in an autonomous vehicle, the bodily ego is a collection of programs (instincts, reflexes, and so on) that monitor the physical unit and try to keep it safe. You also understand that the bodily ego is more than a mere collection of dumb programs. The bodily ego is sophisticated, intelligent, adaptable, and self-aware.
You know the spiritual ego is your soul, or Atman, or your Highest Self. This spiritual ego is that part of your being that is your true identity, your true self.
You understand that connection involves a union between the bodily ego and the spiritual ego and that connection allows the water of your Consciousness, your spiritual ego, to pour into and fill up the vessel. When a connection occurs and water fills the vessel, you have a connection experience.
This is a good start. However, more questions emerge. What does connection feel like? What does “merging” and “union” feel like?10 What happens when you fill the vessel with higher Consciousness? How do you initiate connection? Can anything go wrong with connection and if it does, how do we ensure that everything goes right? We are going to answer all these question and more as we progress through these materials. We will start, in the next few sections, by examining more closely this idea of connection. In these sections, we will answer some basic questions and we will give some introductory advice and guidance on initiating the process and handling any pitfalls and challenges that you might encounter at the early stages.
2 Neurologists have located several structures in the brain that are associated with your sense of identity and sense of self. Neurologists call the structures in the brain associated with your bodily ego the Default Mode Network. The Default Mode Network is the neurological root of the Bodily Ego. The DMN consists of the fore brain, cortical regions, and inner thalamus and hypothalamus. See https://spiritwiki.lightningpath.org/Default_Mode_Network
3 You can find a running list of terms syncretic with spiritual ego at the following SpiritWiki link https://spiritwiki.lightningpath.org/Spiritual_Ego
4 The hardware of the brain is the neurons, neurotransmitters, and such of the brain and central nervous system.
5 As we’ll see later on in our study, this sense of self, this feeling of independent existence that the bodily ego develops is beneficial because it helps the physical unit survive, but it can also be a liability, because when damaged, it can hold the physical unit back from making a healthy connection.
6A Connection Experience is a discrete, short-term psychological, emotional, and physical experience of connection that is sufficiently above one’s average daily experience as to be perceived by the individual as a qualitatively different state of awareness, consciousness, and being.
7 Scientists study connection experiences all the time, but they call it by various and different names like mystical experience, peak experience, pure consciousness event, and so on.
The existence of connection is not open to question. That is, connection experiences are real and they do occur. As Stace noted, mystical experience is “a psychological fact of which there is abundant evidence.” He further went on to say that, “To deny or doubt that it exists as a psychological fact is not a reputable opinion. It is ignorance and “very stupid.” Walter Terence Stace, Mysticism and Philosophy (London: Macmillan, 1960), 14.
8 Note, from this point forward, when we say your physical unit we always mean your physical body plus the bodily ego which is part of the physical body.
10Hint, union and connection can feel anywhere from a gentle “peak” experience in nature to a blistering experience of cosmic bliss. Interestingly, the Eight Anuvaka of the Taittiriya Upanishad is an attempt to describe the incredible intensity that can sometimes accompany a pure and powerful connection experience.