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Egoless, Seriously?

I saw a celebrity, recently, who told the interviewer, “I can honestly say that I have almost no ego left.” The interviewer just sort of nodded and added something like, “You have been on this path for a very long time.”

I found myself just laughing. I like the person who was being interviewed and have followed this individual’s personal development for at least the last thirty years. Like all of us, every time he seems to think he has “finally” reached a level of understanding, life happens and he finds himself, once again, putting the pieces of his life together in an a different way, with perhaps a more complete understanding. I was quite surprised to hear this wise person state that he was now living without ego. So surprised, in fact, that I backed it up and listened again to make sure I had not misinterpreted.

Even after hearing it for the second time, I was still waiting for the punch line, perhaps a sly smile and a wink to show the host that he was just being silly. None came though, and I decided that he was being serious.

As long as we are in form and do things for ourselves in the world we need our ego. This is not to say that we need to defend our ego or that we should allow this aspect of our human selves to be in charge. The ego is a tool that we need in order to move and function on the physical plane.

According to Sri Nisargadatta Maharaj ego starts when thought starts. To be fully free of ego would mean one had to be fully divested of thought. It seems to me that to live in form and to move through one’s days, requires us to exercise some thought. Granted much of what we say and do is autonomic and requires very little thought, but what of sudden change? Don’t we need and employ ego to help us formulate an informed response?

I am not trying to be critical of the aforementioned speaker, whom I greatly admire, I am merely questioning out loud. Nisargadatta teaches that the egoless state is the I Am state. Anything added to the awareness of I Am requires ego. “I Am” is the truth. I Am “this” or “that” requires ego. To say I Am free of ego, would by this definition, be a statement contrived by the ego.

I Am has no opposite. There is no I Am “Not” in Reality. Whatever word or idea is added to I Am creates separation. I Am “This” means I am not “That.” Adding an object to the I Am creates illusion from Reality.

Only the ego could suggest that it is possible to live without it.

Is it feasible to live without being a slave to the ego? I certainly think that it is not only possible, but that it is necessary to live in perpetual peace. I have to believe that living free from the mastery of the ego is what this profound individual meant in his remarks.

Our mind is very powerful and it does not wish to give up control without having tried every trick possible. Consider these words from Thomas Merton found in his autobiography The Seven Storey Mountain, “I think that if there is one truth that people need to learn, in the world, especially today, it is this: the intellect is only theoretically independent of desire and appetite in ordinary, actual practice. It is constantly being blinded and perverted by the ends and aims of passion, and the evidence it presents to us with such a show of impartiality and objectivity is fraught with interest and propaganda. We have become marvelous at self-delusion; all the more so, because we have gone to such trouble to convince ourselves of our own absolute infallibility.”

As long as we are in form and are required to act on life, as it comes, we will need thoughts. In the shaping and interpretation of these thoughts and our other life experiences, ego finds its existence. The fully functioning, conscious human recognizes this powerful tool as an asset but never falls prey to its desired domination. Who and what we are is the awareness which exists before the thought, before the ego. From this place of wisdom we are able to utilize all of our gifts and talents to live a joyous life of service to the Universe. Recognizing and utilizing a healthy ego is just one of the many assets we carry in a fully developed toolkit.

16 comments… add one
  • Great post I so agree Thank you Blessings

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    • Brenda, Thank you for taking the time to share your thoughts. You share a wonderful loving light with us all, and I greatly appreciate you.

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  • Well written and many excellent points, Elliot. I was pondering these very issues earlier today. Thank you for sharing.

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    • Thank you for reading and for taking the time to respond. I appreciate you.

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  • It is a journey not a destination. Just as the master never proclaims him/herself neither does one proclaim they have no ego. the very declaration makes it not so. The ego is not one to do battle with, for that only empowers it. Rather negative ego that thrives on control, manipulation and deceit is starved by giving it attention. Ego is just ego. It is our use of this important self identification that makes to an asset or a deficit.

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    • Thank you for sharing your wisdom Stanley. I agree with everything you said. I appreciate that you took the time to comment on this post.

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  • So interesting to read a good post on such an all-pervading and meaty topic.

    My understanding of ego is that it acts as intermediary between the soul and the body; if we didn’t have an ego we wouldn’t feed ourselves or think of ways to feed ourselves.

    Egos want. They want chocolate, tobacco, new cars, bigger houses, all the stuff pertaining to what we imagine are markers of worldly success. Glamour, fame, fortune, these things will make our survival far easier and ensured. Or we are told or are silly enough to believe.

    My teacher described the ego as both like a naughty child that needed to be watched and as spread throughout the body like capillaries. He said that we can never eradicate our ego entirely, but we can ‘thin’ it.

    The powerful position the ego has within one’s being gives it an exaggerated sense of its own power and as we have all witnessed egos can get very out of hand. Easy to spot in others . . .

    Just like a government needs reminding from time to time, the ego is there specifically to service our needs. Not the other way around. It’s also a tricky bugger, sort of not letting the left hand know what the right hand is doing territory when trying to outsmart the ego. It’s onto everything–almost.

    The hynogogic, the state that Emanuel Swedenborg gained so many insights into the spiritual world in, is a state we daily traverse that is ego-less. It’s the state when you’re just about to drift off and perhaps a string of words or phrases or images come to your mind that seem sort of surprising and unusual. These come to you in the few seconds that the ego has given up on you for the night and gone dormant, but you are still just awake and your unconscious can get a word in edgeways that is not immediately distorted by an ego with an agenda. But I ramble. Thanks for the post Eliot.

    Death will dissolve the ego resolutely. Then what’s left? That’s the biggie!

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    • Thank you for your wise response. We are hypnotized by our ego, sometimes it even convinces us that we are free from the trappings of being human. My take, however, is that being human is nothing to run from; it is something to embrace, to explore, to examine its boundaries and then to push it; and at the end of each day, actually in each aware moment, to be filled with gratitude just for the miracle that life, itself, is.

      I appreciate you.

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    • I forgot to add that the hypnogogic state was my first glimpse that who and what I am is beyond my ordinary thoughts. When ideas arise that are not from our everyday awareness, and we have all have experienced them, it becomes obvious that we are at least connected to something bigger than this human body. It is nice to have those breaks from the continual filtering provided by the ego. These moments offer proof that it is possible to live without the suffering that typically defines the human condition.

      Thanks again for a thought provoking comment. Your thoughtfulness really adds value to this blogging experiment, for me.

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      • Thanks Elliott and it’s people and posts like these that make the internet worthwhile. It’s taken a while to find at least one (other) sensible person!

        Heh just kidding. (I think).

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        • Thank you Love.

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  • Thank you Elliott, as always, for sharing your thoughtful insight. You are loved and appreciated! *smiling*

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    • I love and appreciate you Karen.

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  • Hi Elliot,

    I think the ego functions much like “the dark”. Without it we wouldn’t have the ability to realize when we are in flow=the I am. the ego being “out”.Just as we cann’t really measure our light without dark moments/events/behaviors to measure it against.

    Lillie

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  • Thanks for this article, Elliot. I agree with you. Ego means self, and we cannot exist in the world without a self.
    Thanks for sharing this wisdom!
    You might be interested in a blog post I wrote on this topic: The Three Egos.
    take care,
    Asatar

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    • Thank you for taking time to comment Asatar. I will read your blog post at my earliest opportunity. I appreciate you!

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