Four-Part Blog Series on The Ego’s Four Splits
(Adapted from Fr. Richard Rohr’s April 21, 2012 webcast on Franciscan Mysticism)
Fr. Richard is teaching in Switzerland, Germany and Romania for the next 10 days. While he is traveling, we have his permission to share with you some of his recent teachings.
Mysticism is when God’s presence becomes experiential for you, as opposed to intellectual. Mystics are not talking about belief systems, but rather a felt sense of Mystery. A hallmark of mystics is the integration within themselves of what I have identified as the Ego’s Four Splits. To create our mental ego, our false self, there are Four Splits that the mind goes through. I’m going to very simply describe the Four Splits for you and show you how, in embracing the way of the mystics and people like Francis, we just might “get it” earlier than at the very end of our lives.
The First Split: Self from Others
The First Split is the split between my self and your self. “I’m here, and you’re over there.” We would call that dualistic consciousness. We learn to see this way as children, and most of us live with it for the rest of our days. In the first half of life (and for many, into the chronological second half of life), we spend most of our time just accentuating and accessorizing that separate self. “This is me. That’s you. I’m better than you; you’re smarter than me. I’m better looking than you; you’re wealthier than me.” It’s all about separation, and using the self as the central reference point. The modern word we use for this Split is the ego. This is the first Split to form, and usually the last to die.
When Jesus commands us to love our neighbor and to love the enemy, he’s training us in overcoming this split. What you do to another, you do to yourself. What you do to the neighbor, you do to Christ. “You are one in God, and one in me,” so it becomes what Julian of Norwich calls “Oneing”: overcoming the splits, little by little, so in the end there’s just One. As Jesus said, “I and the Father are one.” The whole point of Christianity is the experience of unity with creation, with the neighbor, with the enemy, and with God. This creates a basis for universal mysticism. God is not so far away. God is not so transcendent. God is not found in glory, but in humility. It really re-positions the spiritual journey. Now the goal is the bottom, not the top.
For the next post in the series, click here: Part II