What is "Ego"?
The Definition of "Ego" in Plain English: A Confusing Word, Clarified
"It's not that I think I'm, the center of the universe.
It's just that I think that the rest of the universe is a little off-center."
article by LiveReal Agent Thomas
Lots of folks seem to throw around the word "ego" nowadays,
and they often look like they know what they're talking about.
But then again, it often seems to us,
your daring, fearless, and occasionally confused LiveReal Agents,
that a lot of the time, they're actually talking about different things,
usually without knowing it.
So we just had to ask . . .
What Is "Ego"?
A) It means "I"
B) It's what you're talking about or referring to when you say "I" (like, "I want this, I do that")
C) It's probably your answer to the question "who am I?"
D) "We're all sentenced to solitary confinement inside our own skins." - Tennessee Williams
E) It's your "identity", or who you think you are.
F) It is something close to what we mean when we say somebody has "a big ego": in other words, they see themselves as being something they're really not. It's an inaccurate self-image, a wrong idea of who you actually are.
G) It is the basis of all television, commercials, marketing, salesmanship, politics, economics, and just about everything else.
H) Psychology: ego is the organizing and controlling center of the personality; the seat of rational cognition and volition, discursive thought, and deliberative will; the center of reflective self-awareness, impulse control, self-control, deliberative will, operational cognition, and a personal, biographical experience (core personal narrative). In other words, it is a good and necessary part of a human life.
I) Spirituality: ego is "the enemy within," the cause of The Problem of Life, "the root of all evil, the enemy of a genuine spiritual life."
J) It is one reason why drugs, alcohol, sex, pornography, bad television, cough syrup, and other things can be so attractive: because they offer a temporary escape from it, whatever it is.
K) "The Matrix": it is the veil that "has been pulled over your eyes to blind you from the truth...a prison that you cannot smell or taste or touch. A prison for your mind."
L) Freud: it is the agile rider of the two horses of instinct and conscience, negotiating the competing demands of both inner and outer forces.
M) Why does Hannibal Lecter kill? "Because he feels like God. Would you want to give that up?" - from the movie Red Dragon
N) "Dear Police: I Am God." - note written from a sniper who had murdered several people, chosen at random.
O) It is that part of almost every person who wants to be God . . . but isn't.
P) It is that subtle sense of separation that keeps us distant from whatever we love.
Q) William Blake: "If the doors of perception were cleansed everything would appear to man as it is: infinite." (in this case, "ego" is apparently the "door of perception").
R) It is whatever it is that which gets in the way of real happiness
S) "I know what you'd like. Be honest. Generally you'd like to get your own way, get whatever you want, get back at anyone whom you perceive as having crossed you, get your dreams and fantasies to come true right now, get ahead with less sacrifice and effort, and get away with murder (figuratively, I hope) - all without any consequesences or regrets." - Laura Schlessinger
T) ". . . the human face of (that form of) ego is pride; is arrogant self-importance; is narcissistic self-infatuation; is the need to see oneself as being separate at all times, in all places, through all circumstances - and that ego is the unrelenting enemy of all that is truly wholesome in the human experience."
U) "Fear arises in the mind when a sense of being a separate self (in distinction to what is outside of self) appears in consciousness. For when there is a self, divided from the other, there is an inherent possibility of harm at the hands of that other." V. J. Fedorschak
V) It is a blinding and dulling identification with a separated sense of self, or in other words, a state of being identified with a split-off, separated, unique something.
W) It's a necessary but not sufficient condition for getting through life.
X) It's needed to stave off both psychosis and God.
Y) Ammachi: ("What is ego?") "You are actually asking, what is unreality? But how can unreality be described? What use is there in talking about something that isn't real, that is nonexistent? And how can you speak about that which is real? Amma can only give you a few hints. The mind is the ego. But the ego is a big lie - it is a liar. It is unreal."
Z) A word which is Aramaic is "naphsha", understood as the controlling entity behind the physical, mental, and behaving self." as mentioned in Matthew 10:39: "He who finds his own naphsha shall lose it, but he who loses his own naphsha for my way shall find it."
AA) It's an activity, a verb; something you are actually doing, like folding your arms - and you can stop doing, like unfolding your arms
BB) It is another word for "attachment."
CC) Ernest Becker (in the Pulitzer-Prize-winner The Denial of Death): "Chapter 3: Human Character as a Vital Lie" - "In childhood we see the struggle for self-esteem at its least disguised. The child is unashamed about what he needs and wants most . . .. the prerogatives of limitless self-extension, what we might call "cosmic significance" . . . the heart of the creature: the desire to stand out, to be the one in creation . . . who has to feel himself an object of primary value: first in the universe, representing in himself all of life. This is the reason for the daily and usual excruciating struggle with siblings . . ."
DD) "The barrier between the individual soul and the Supreme Soul is the ego, the ever present enemy. It manifests as a feeling of separateness." (Yoga Teacher) Swami Vishnu-Devananda
EE) "Authentic (practice) paradoxically demands a mature personality with a strong ego." Georg Feuerstein
FF) It is a "self-contraction" - Adi Da
GG) "To define is to exclude and negate." - Jose Ortega y Gasset
HH) "...the agonized ego is a ring of defense around nothing." - Alan Watts
II) "Ego is the human soul wrapped in mental matter and separated." - Torkom Saraydarian
JJ) It is what gets in the way of experiencing happiness; so when "it" is absent, happiness is experienced.
KK) It is what gets in the way of experiencing love; so when "it" is absent, love is experienced.
LL) It is what gets in the way of experiencing God; so when "it" is absent, God is experienced.
MM) It is the deeply buried but ever-present intuition that you are the center of the universe that gives rise to feelings and beliefs in one's uniqueness and specialness.
NN) In yoga terminology, it is Ahamkara, "Ego or egotism; literally 'the I-Maker', the state that ascertains 'I know'."
OO) "The image of ourselves that grows out of our time-and-sense-bound consciousness is, in an ultimate sense, unreal. In fact, all of our self-limiting activities grow out of this false picture of ourselves. As a result of this false picture, we postulate a dualistic world of self and other, of things separated and isolated, of pain and struggle, birth and death, killing and being killed. This picture is untrue because it barely scratches the surface. It is like looking at the one-eighth of an iceberg above the water and refusing to acknowledge the seven-eighths underneath. For if we could see beyond the ever-changing forms into the underlying reality, we would realize that fundamentally there is nothing but harmony and unity and that this perfection is no different from the phenomenal world of incessant change and transformation.
Now ego, that shadowy, phantomlike figure with insatiable desires and a lust for dominance, sits astride the senses like some oriental potentate. Or, to change the simile, ego is like a magician carrying up his sleeve the deadly tricks of greed, anger, and wrong thinking. Worse, he is quite capable of rationalizing his actions with an air of sweet reasonableness. This wily and slippery conjurer deludes us into believing we can enjoy the delights of the senses without pain only by delivering ourselves into his hands . . . " - Zen Master Phillip Kapleau
PP) "...ambiguity is the basis of our experience and consciousness at all levels. The "oneness" that pervades the ambiguity, making two sides unacceptable and forcing us to choose one of them, is show itself to be ambiguous: while the most fundamental ambiguity is shown to have as one of its faces the fact that there is no ambiguity. This, we will show, is the ultimate irony of life .. . . Human history - social, political, and cultural - no less than the growth of an individual to maturity could be seen as an attempt to come to terms with an ambiguity that demands an ultimate leap if full maturity is to be attained. Without this leap demanded by life, various kinds of "neurotic" solutions are resorted to . . . (we will) broach this neurosis of human growth and show it to be this abortive attempt to resolve the dilemma of existence within existence that creates what is called the ego. Ego is seen to be an illicit union of "uniqueness," "the center," and the "word." The ego is a metaphor for the universe, a metaphor that is taken literally . . . the role played by uniqueness and the center, both "standing for" the fundamental Oneness." - Albert Low
QQ) "The whole development of (ego) is an attempt on our part to shield ourselves from the truth of our insubstantiality." "The source of the effort to confirm our solidity is an uncertainty as to whether or not we exist. Driven by this uncertainty, we seek to prove our own existence by finding a reference point outside ourselves, something with which to have a relationship, something solid to feel separate from." "we become a bundle of tense muscles protecting ourselves." Chogyam Trungpa Rimpoche
RR) "Life seems to consist merely of a series of battles between dualities - good and evil, happiness and sorrow, pleasure and pain - a struggle to pursue one thing and to avoid its opposite . . . this struggle of the opposites is only an illusion resulting from our imprisonment within the psychological ego. It is the ego, the sum total of all our defects, that separates us from our spiritual self and causes all our suffering. The ego ensnares our consciousness - the Divine Spark within each of us - in a web of illusion that prevents us from comprehending our true nature and identity." - Samael Aun Weor
SS) "On the psychological level, the sense of lack and incompleteness is, if anything, even greater than on the physical level. As long as you are identified with the mind, you have an externally derived sense of self. That is to say, you get your sense of who you are from things that ultimately have nothing to do with who you are: your social role, possessions, externl appearance, successes and failures, belief systems, and so on. This false, mind-made self, the ego, feels vulnerable, insecure, and is always seeking new things to identify with to give it a feeling that it exists. But nothing is ever enough to give it lasting fulfillment. Its fear remains; its sense of lack and needineess remains." - Eckhart Tolle
TT) Ego is "that emotional and psychological knot in consciousness that is the fundamental cause of the sense of separation from all of life. From the spiritual perspective, this is defined as pride, self-importance, and the narcissistic need to always see oneself as being separate – separate from others, separate from the world, separate from the whole universe. Ego is a love-denying obsession with separation, narcissism, and self-concern." - Andrew Cohen
UU) "Without possessions, success, fame - who are you? You don't know. You are your name, you are your fame, you are your prestige, your power. But other than these, who are you? So this whole possessiveness becomes your identity. It gives you a false sense of being. That's the ego.
Ego is not something mysterious, it is a very simple phenomenon. You don't know who you are, and to live without knowing who you are is impossible. If I don't know who I am, then what am I doing here? Then whatsoever I am doing becomes meaningless. The first and the foremost thing is to know who I am." Osho
VV) "The ego is that which hides the knowledge of our true nature with the illusion of separateness. This illusion comes from our mistaken identifications with the body and its senses in the same way that the hot midday sun causes the mirage of a lake to appear on the desert floor. This illusion, in turn, gives rise to the sense of "I" and "mine" like yeast that is mixed into flour and water. Ignorance of our true nature is the root sin that manifests in various forms such as greed, selfishness, hatred, covetousness, envy and vanity. From these arise a plethora of emotional sufferings such as strife, grief, anxiety and fear...The ego is our sense of separateness as "I" and "mine" and arises from identification with the body. We have become blinded by the ego, thinking that we are the ego, and the more we think we are the ego, the more deeply we sink into spiritual darkness. In truth, we are spiritual beings who have been imprisoned in bodies by the belief that we are these bodies. Ego (Satan) does everything possible to continue to persuade us that we are mere mortal fleshly beings. Satan is our jailer and holds the door to our cell closed by means of our own desires and attachments. We could walk out right now - today - but we are unable to do so because we are spiritually blind like a horse with blinders and see only materially through the five senses. Our desires are the whip that drives us into this morbid existence." - Ethan Walker III
WW) All of the above.
XX) None of the above
YY) Some of the above.
ZZ) Other ________________
What is your answer? ____________________
Psychologically, on the mental/emotional level, it seems like we need a healthy, strong, well-functioning "ego." Yet spiritually, a lot of folks really seem to harp on "ego" as literally the root of all evil.
This is another investigation we're planning to pursue...
"You need to fatten up your head
before you chop it off."
- Richard Rose
So...if "ego" is the problem...
- what's the solution?
Maybe looking into "the solution," if there is one, gets us into
the search for "IT",
the problem of life,
finding out who you really are,
or trying some practical exercises