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How do you define the ego?
#1
People often bring up the ego in spiritual discussions (I saw a lot of it on the Skeptiko forum for one thing - Stan W., I think you use the word a lot Wink). But I'm starting this thread to hopefully hear people who buy into the concept, or use it, in one way or another, to attempt to define it. What it is and what it isn't.

Of course the discussion could branch out into all kinds of other directions: is this ego stuff real or just mental constructs? is ego really a problem? how does it relate to afterlife data or not? should one strive for "ego death" or not, and what does that entail? I'm OK with all of that, but I'm especially interested in anyone having given thought to how they define ego, or if they're interesting in giving that some thought.

Obviously we usually think of selfish behavior, narcissism, etc., but that is just one (IMO fairly narrow and surface-level) view of looking at it.

And by the way, this thread is about spiritual definitions of ego, not psychological, like the Freudian one (although there may be overlaps).

I don't agree with everything the guy in the video below says in some of his other presentations, but I find this is a pretty good one to watch and gets you thinking. At the beginning he does bring up the topic of the importance of defining the ego, and then gives his own rather quick definition. The video then goes into an argument into how pretty much the majority of suffering involves the ego. I found the list of forms of problems and suffering that he sources back to ego so interesting that I wrote it out below. Anyway, this is just to help stimulate a potential discussion.

Again, the discussion could branch into what people think of this list and this guy's points, but I'm hoping for at least some thinking about defining ego in the first place.




Leo's list of the consequences of ego:

Quote:Personal consequences
fear and anxiety
anger, bitterness, hatred, violence and intolerance
outrage and unfairness
guilt and regret
annoyances
criticism and blame
emotional pain
depression
dissatisfaction and disappointment with life
shyness and insecurity, confidence problems
being inauthentic and not acting according to your values
not liking one’s self (personality, physical appearance)
boredom
loneliness and neediness
stress and chronic fatigue
all addictions
sexual misconduct and cheating
lying, dishonesty and the spreading of untruth
exploitative and manipulative behaviours
all relationship problems
self-sabotaging
money problems
motivation problems
indecisiveness and difficulty making choices
gender identity confusion
being stuck in the wrong job or career
inability to realize dreams
inability to realize the highest spiritual experiences
inability to love others (incl. commitment issues, expressing love) and to be a benevolent force (compassion, etc.)
creative difficulties
feeling offended and self-righteous
falling into dogma and ideology
obsessive thinking
"accidentally" hurting loved ones
damaging other people (ex: business partners, etc.)
damaging the environment
dying a sorry death

Societal consequences
all wars in history
genocide, conquering nations, slavery
scams, ponzi schemes and theft
rape and the abuse of children and women
financial exploitation
capitalism and communism
caste systems and power hierarchies
corruption, bribery and nepotism in government
religious intolerance, bigotry and homophobia
all religious conflicts in history
suppression of reason and science
suppression of authentic spirituality
cults and intellectual exploitation
witch trials and scapegoating
dictatorships, gangs and syndicates (corruption and abuses of power)
political gridlock and extreme partisanship in government
the oppression of human rights and civil liberties
the destruction of the environment
 
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#2
I'm sure it's been pointed out before, but the ego strikes me as a two sided coin. Take someone like Louie Armstrong, by all accounts the nicest guy you could ever hope to meet.
But without at least a modicum of ego he would have perhaps confined his talent to his bedroom. If you take my meaning.
Ou
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#3
I was drawn to this thread before I saw my name being mentioned by the OP as someone who uses the 'ego' word in posts quite a bit. It pleased my ego!

I guess that I learned about the ego through listening to Eckhart Tolle, and my 'mind picture' of ego (though there isn't actually a picture, it's more an idea) was formed after listening to him. Like many of my ideas, it's partly completed. I seem to be content with that. Having enough to make an idea work is often sufficient for me, I don't want to over complicate my thinking, which are mostly those of my ego. Can we think outside of ego? 

To give an example of 'the ego' to help make sense of things, I can often see when it has taken over the personality that it has been dealt, when I feel that a persons ego 'has taken control', is 'showing itself'. An obvious example would be Donald Trump. Oops I'm treading into politics! Abort. Abort. 


I see at least two parts to the internal workings of human beings, one that will endure, and one that is temporary, for use during this lifetime. Let me call the enduring entity 'the soul'. It is the canvas on which we 'experience' everything. Now it may be a mistake to do so, as I have no real idea what the soul in this case might be. Is it related to 'the spirit'? So as not to make things too complicated while we try to answer the question asked, about the ego, let's leave those other things out of the mix, and concentrate on the ego. Suffice to say that there is some sort of fundamental, eternal(?),side to us, and a temporary, lifetime issue, part. The ego is a subpart of the latter.

I guess, if I were to have to design something to interact with others, that I must have come up with something like the ego, if it were to interact with others on a denser plane, to have free will, but not to be the same as the others. It makes a lot of sense to me, however nonsensical it might be to others! 

So, to get to what really matters here.

I learned to separate the ego from whatever else a few years back, it made a big difference to how I react to people - most of the time. I think that I can mostly realise when it is my own ego talking nonsense, or getting angry, reacting to people etc. My soul takes it all in, without judgement. Something to do with The 'all seeing I' (or eye) perhaps?

When are we devoid of ego? Perhaps when meditating?

[font=.SF UI Text][font=.SFUIText]Take for example when someone gets 'road rage'. It is very easy to recognise the ego in cases like these. The person rants and shouts without even recognising their behaviour as being out of the ordinary. The red mist comes down and they are taken over by a madness. Until, maybe, they look back on it. [/font][/font]

[font=.SF UI Text][font=.SFUIText]Some people live in that madness. That's why I really think many people are 'insane'. [/font][/font]

[font=.SF UI Text][font=.SFUIText]They might be surprised to see themselves behaving in a way that they don't recognise, like looking at a stranger. Is this the 'awareness' that I often read about? The really amazing thing is that some (most?) people can not ever see that difference, they are permanently in the hold of their ego. In other words, permanently in a state of 'road rage' or 'confusion', they 'wouldn't be able to get out of their mind'. If you were to try to talk to them about this, to explain how it might be, they just wouldn't get it. [/font][/font]

[font=.SF UI Text][font=.SFUIText]I'll leave it there for now, but this is a fascinating and important topic to me. Smile [/font][/font]
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#4
Oh fuck it! That's what happens when you copy and paste from Notes ! Grrr

I tried to delete most of the rubbish from the above post, butthis post wouldn't make sense if I deleted it all.
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#5
You said you wanted spiritual interpretations of the ego rather than psychological, but I'm not sure where one ends and the other begins

I think the ego is a feedback loop at the top of the hierarchical structure of consciousness. Feedback loops in complex systems can be delicate and there's all sorts of ways they can get out of whack resulting in unstable output which in the human domain is the list of maladies given in the OP.

Ego is also a rigid identity centered on the self and involves a near constant process of narrative construction looking forwards and backwards in time. As such, the ego is the lead character in the dramatic story that is one's life. The "ego" is what we've named the experience of being the lead character in one's own drama.

Being "stuck" in egoic perspective means that one is unable to modulate the feedback loop at the top of the consciousness hierarchy. It means one is unable to pause the process of narrative creation and be in the moment. It also means that one is unable to stretch or dissolve the mental boundaries of one's identity to reframe the narrative in a less serious way. Pain and threat of loss makes things serious, and simply altering one's perspective and playing with one's identity can reduce or eliminate the threat of loss or pain.

I think that "death of self" or "death of ego" or "mystical experience" or "persistent non-symbolic experience" or "spiritually transformative experience" or "meditation" etc... are all the result of a halting of the narrative creation process, a radical expansion or dissolution of identity, and the creation of an extra higher feedback loop that watches the ego and is able to modulate it.

Since death of ego results in boundary dissolution around the identity of self, it leads to feelings of Oneness and non-duality which would seem to be on a "higher level" spiritually than duality. To be in the ego means to be so focused on one's individual story as to have forgotten that one is in some sense The One - that is contiguous with the Whole or the Divine Mind.

I think there are many obvious benefits to this process, and I assume that these benefits carry over beyond this one life, but I don't know for sure how.
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#6
(08-22-2017, 11:43 AM)Stan Woolley Wrote: Oh fuck it! That's what happens when you copy and paste from Notes ! Grrr

I tried to delete most of the rubbish from the above post, butthis post  wouldn't make sense if I deleted it all.

What I usually do (on similar forums) is to first paste into a standard text editor like Notepad so that you get an unformatted block of text. Then copy that and paste into the WYSIWYG editor here.
"I shall not commit the fashionable stupidity of regarding everything I cannot explain as a fraud.” ― C.G. Jung
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#7
(08-22-2017, 04:04 PM)Hurmanetar Wrote: Since death of ego results in boundary dissolution around the identity of self, it leads to feelings of Oneness and non-duality which would seem to be on a "higher level" spiritually than duality. To be in the ego means to be so focused on one's individual story as to have forgotten that one is in some sense The One - that is contiguous with the Whole or the Divine Mind.

I think there are many obvious benefits to this process, and I assume that these benefits carry over beyond this one life, but I don't know for sure how.

Why would oneness be on a higher level spiritually than duality? According to information gained from mediumship, spiritually evolved souls are more individual than the less evolved souls. This conclusion is also logical. Oneness would only lead to some kind of vegetative state and annihilation.
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#8
(09-17-2017, 07:49 PM)Brian Wrote: Perhaps not.  I have experienced oneness on a number of occasions during peak experiences and it is far from vegetative or annihilated - it gives more life, not less.


Did you feel that you were still an individual during those experiences? I ask this question, because usually the stories about oneness are rather vague, and it would be interesting to read a more detailed description of such an experience.

In my opinion this is the best and most detailed description of oneness:
https://s3.amazonaws.com/obe-book-defoe/...y-2016.pdf
(Page 38, under the heading Self-awareness)
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#9
(09-17-2017, 07:33 PM)Raimo Wrote: Why would oneness be on a higher level spiritually than duality? According to information gained from mediumship, spiritually evolved souls are more individual than the less evolved souls. This conclusion is also logical. Oneness would only lead to some kind of vegetative state and annihilation.

I think the more "highly evolved" spiritual person can travel at will between the oneness and the dual perspectives. Those who are stuck in the dual perspective are more susceptible to the potential pathologies of the ego.

I agree with the part about annihilation. I see "Oneness" as a destruction. The ability to create has to be paired with the ability to destroy - otherwise you end up with old rigid defective structures.


Quote:Did you feel that you were still an individual during those experiences [of oneness]?


"Individual": One - not able to be divided into the dual.  Big Grin

Forgive me for making a silly rhetorical point, but our language always becomes ironic and paradoxical at the fringes of ontology.
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#10
(09-17-2017, 07:33 PM)Raimo Wrote: Why would oneness be on a higher level spiritually than duality? According to information gained from mediumship, spiritually evolved souls are more individual than the less evolved souls. This conclusion is also logical. Oneness would only lead to some kind of vegetative state and annihilation.

I tend to think that oneness is not something we eventually attain, it is what we are now and always have been. The sense of separation is the illusion which has been created so that we can experience this kind of life without the awareness of the totality. Nevertheless, this life experience adds to the whole. 

I think that the ego is that which facilitates the filtering so that we assume that which we are consciously aware of is all there is. Psi experiences provide the clues that we are more than the ego, more than the sum of our sensory input and more than the temporary (and temporal) vehicle that we currently inhabit.
"I shall not commit the fashionable stupidity of regarding everything I cannot explain as a fraud.” ― C.G. Jung
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