Monday, June 23, 2014

What is the Ego?

“Most people are so completely identified with the voice in the head—incessant stream of involuntary and compulsive thinking and the emotions that accompany it—that we may describe them as being possessed by their mind.  As long as you are completely unaware of this, you take the thinking to be who you are.  This is the egoic mind.  We call it egoic because there is a sense of self, of I  (ego), in every thought—every memory, every interpretation, opinion, viewpoint, reaction, emotion.  This is unconsciousness, spiritually speaking.  Your thinking, the content of your mind, is of course conditioned by the past: your upbringing, culture, family background, and so on.  The central core of all your mind activity consists of certain repetitive and persistent thoughts, emotions, and reactive patterns that you identify with most strongly.  This entity is the ego itself.

In most cases, when you say “I,” it is the ego speaking, not you, as we have seen.  It consists of thought and emotion, of a bundle of memories you identify with as “me and my story,” of habitual roles you play without knowing it, of collective identifications such as nationality, religion, race, social class, or political allegiance.   It also contains personal identifications, not only with possessions, but also with opinions, external appearance, long-standing resentments, or concepts of yourself as better that or not as good as others, as a success or failure.

The content of the ego varies from person to person, but in every ego the same structure operates.  In other words: Egos only differ on the surface.  Deep down they are all the same.  In what way are they the same?  They live on identification and separation.  When you live through the mind-made Self comprised of thought and emotion that is the ego, the basis for your identity is precarious because thought and emotion that is the ego, the basis for your identity is precarious because of thought and emotion are by their very nature ephemeral, fleeting.  So every ego is continuously struggling for survival, trying to protect and enlarge itself.  To uphold the “I-though,” it needs the opposite thought of “the other.”  The conceptual “I” cannot survive without the conceptual “other.”  The others are most other when I see them as my enemies.  At one end of the scale of this unconscious egoic pattern lies the egoic compulsive habit of faultfinding and complaining about others.  Jesus referred to it when he said:  ‘Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye?’ At the other end of the scale, there is physical violence between individuals and warfare between nations.  In the Bible, Jesus’ question remains unanswered, but the answer is, of course: Because when I criticize or condemn another, it makes me feel bigger, superior.”

A New Earth – Chapter 3 -- page 59

I have been fascinated reading about the ego.  Nobody I have read about has ever identified the ego as Eckhart Tolle did.  The above excerpt is only a small part of Chapter 3.  I have read his book before, and it becomes clearer to understand after reading it again.  No wonder it has become a popular reading after Oprah introduced it on her show.

“Somebody becomes an enemy if you personalize the unconsciousness that is the ego.  Non-reaction is not weakness but strength.  Another word for non-reaction is forgiveness.  To forgive is to overlook, or rather to look through.  You look through the ego to the sanity that is in every human being as his or her essence.”

~ Eckhart Tolle – A New Earth

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