Cogito, Ego Sum
Some notions about ego, what it is, what if anything can be done about it

The subject of ego comes up from time to time – well, all the time, actually. In spiritual discourse it is a term both very useful and counterproductive. The reason for its counterproductiveness is basically that there is no consistent notion of what it means. But almost all teachers talk about ego. If you are familiar with their meaning and happy to abide by their terms of reference, it can be very useful.

One thing ego is NOT, in almost all spiritual discourse, is the Freudian notion. Wikipedia can explain what Freudians mean by ego and i'll leave it at that.

Non-Freudian notions that crop up more or less frequently on the Spiritual Path™ are the sense of separation from the whole, ie that "I" am not the whole but some limited body-mind separate from the rest of existence; the sense of being in some way better than nominal others; the doer; narcissism; etc.

On this site, there are already four articles that deal with ego either explicitly as something to be addressed / explored or as a central and defined concept so as to illuminate another theme. They are:

Chögyam Trungpa,
on the mechanics of ego formation
Gene Poole, on ego as necessary psychic immune system
Bruce Morgen, ego seen as quasi-reiterative process
Moller de la Rouviere, on
how ego as separate self-sense is related to self-inquiry

This page will present other worthy presentations and explorations, as they come in. So far two, stay tuned.

1. from Onniko, first appeared in Guru Ratings Forum. Her words are in purple, those of her interlocutor in navy:

So, the energy that constitutes 'ego' is not real. 


The energy is real but that it constitutes 'ego'
is not. 'Ego' is an idea based on memories of 
waves of energy, sometimes negative, sometimes
positive but then negatively used to energize the 
mind to generate ideas of self-aggrandizement.

The same energy is also used in many other ways,
none of which have anything to do with the
definition of ego as it's generally used.

Therefore, the energy is real but ego is not
real but is an idea which has merit only as
far as it lets one mind understand the other.

How can you give something more reality? If it is real, it is real. 

Not necessarily. Ideas are real in that
we agree that we all have ideas. The content
of the idea, 'ego' in this case, is not real
except in the aspect of the way we agree on
its meaning, or not. If we give the idea
more of our energy, we make it 'more real'
by making it a control button over that energy.

[X was] just banging his head on the wall. Stop, that hurts and causes damage. But, of course we don't want to give pain more reality than it deserves.

No, he wasn't doing that, he was pushing a
button in you that directed the way you use
your energy.

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2. from John, first appeared in NonDualPhil.

> What is called ego or self is not a pattern
> so how is it recognized? That is, whether
> it exists or not, how is it adduced to exist?


 I believe it's felt or intuited. (I don't necessarily mean that
 there's a pre-existing self that can be felt/intuited, but self is a
 product of feeling/intuition. And, later, thought).

 Initially there's a feeling of amorphous presence. Later that feeling
 is conceptually associated with a specific, limited piece of the whole
 (for example, a body or a persona). That association creates an
 implicit balance of power between me and not-me. In association with
 the body, I am in a hopeless, almost powerless position: I am a tiny
 creature in a vast universe that will eventually destroy me, but I'm
 endowed with enough courage and stupidity to fight and fuck and get
 the work done without being crushed by my predicament. In association
 with a persona, I might be abject and cowardly or bombastic and
 domineering or somewhere in between, but the point is pretty much the
 same: there's a balance of power between me and not-me, and I have a
 vital interest in making that balance more favourable to what I
 identify as me.

 So that's what I think of as ego. Not a thing per se, but the process
 of associating an amorphous feeling of presence with a limited thing
 or idea, and then acting accordingly. It's the root of all suffering
 and strife, as far as I can see.

[Sarlo adds: And precedes language]

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