We have to give names to that core distortion of the human mind that blinds us to the good, the true and the beautiful within and around us. It’s been called sin, delusion, lower self, or most famously, ego. Ego technically just means “I” or self. This suggests our self is fundamentally deficient or illusory, which it is not. It is only a question of what we take to be our self.
But we all know that we can have too much of the wrong kind of self — the kind that is based on fear, deficiency, shame, anger, arrogance and separation.
And so we need to talk about how this false self, as I prefer to call it, manifests in our mind. The great irony is that by talking so much about our so-called ego, which means our false identity, confused thoughts and negativities, we tend to believe ever more firmly that we are defined by that complex of habits. We build up the case that we still “have” a terrible, awful ego versus “not having” one.
Strictly speaking, there is no such thing as an ego. There is only relative confusion or clarity happening in consciousness.
Although it is helpful to be honest about the negativities and suffering that we still experience, we should cease to think of ourselves as entirely unenlightened, or as literally having or being an ego. Instead, we should affirm the conscious intelligence that is present at all times as our real self and nature.
With that affirmation, we can steadily develop strong confidence in our real nature and observe our difficulties from there, so that our negative qualities of mind diminish and our positive wisdom qualities unfold. This attitude affords us a far more positive process of growth than when we identify as a pernicious, incorrigible ego that might someday disappear.
Identification is the fuel that keeps it going. We can instead be aware of our negativities, taking full responsibility for them without believing they define us in any absolute sense. We can hold fast to the insight that these negativities, however much trouble they cause for us, are only temporary qualities or bad habits.
The more you speak of your quasi-autonomous, selfish, rebellious, fallen-angel type of ego that is entirely cut off from God or oneness, the more power and personhood you give to patterns that are fundamentally impersonal and illusory. You’re reifying a habit of mind that has no intrinsic solidity or reality.
Goodness, truth and love are infinitely more real than evil and falsehood. The latter are dangerous facets of human experience, to be confronted with all the wisdom we can muster, but they should not be given the status of absolute reality.
I have often been surprised when spiritual guides lament the dreaded ego as though humility commands us to declare ourselves forever broken. This attitude is especially to persist if one has never been touched by a powerful awakening of consciousness. Such an awakening grants a rare and powerful confidence that “I” am intrinsically free and stainless, even if some residual negativities remain. Without such awakening, one feels oneself forever “in the trenches” battling the darkness, rather than empowered as clear awake Presence.
Although we should recognize how deeply entrenched our delusions can be, we need not wallow in a sense of disempowerment. I would urge you to embrace maximum realism about your present state of mind along with maximum spiritual optimism.
Aim to identify with the conscious observer; the light of the soul; the living love and truth that has never been separate from Source.
Now some folks who have studied too many convoluted spiritual teachings will say, “The ‘observer’ is just another concept! It’s the ego trying to trick you into another identity!”
That’s a misunderstanding. The observer is pure consciousness. Observing is the natural function of consciousness at all times, just as shining light is the natural function of the sun at all times.
As suggested by every holy scripture from East to West, we should recognize, affirm and identify as this ultimate observer, the pure awareness that knows all experiences. Contrary to what some erroneous pop-enlightenment teachings suggest, trying to live as “nothing at all” does not free you from your mind. No one lives as nothing or without any sense of center, intellect, or being. If you had no mind, you would not exist. As pure as the purest sage may be, they remain intelligent, aware and oriented by wisdom.
You cannot get rid of the very light that makes your existence feel real. You can only strip away the illusory, limited notion of self to reveal the true essence. You are conscious intelligence. This intelligence is not just an empty, inert space where things just happen to happen. That’s not the fullness of wisdom. Wisdom is an actualized state of dynamic intelligence, discernment, love and vitality. It belongs to the soul and the soul is real.
When misdirected, the intelligence of mind causes us problems, but we don’t become enlightened by trying to dim our intelligence, refusing to think, feel or act as human beings. We become enlightened by embracing exactly who, what and where we are. The “Who” of you is conscious intelligence, even when negativities arise. You are always greater than these. As the light of the world you outshine it all.