Shalom Place Community
Ego and Self . . .

This topic can be found at:

05 May 2006, 04:31 PM
Ego and Self . . .
I've been wanting to have a discussion on this for some time, as the topic of Ego is one that seems to come up in almost every accounting of spiritual growth. In common parlance, it seems to be synonymous with something like a false self . . . a delusional and provisional structure, at best . . . something to "get rid of," if at all possible. E.g., how many of us would feel complemented if told we had "quite an Ego?"

There is another understanding for the term, however, and that is the one used by psychologists like Jung to describe our conscious self. For Jung, it is the Ego that is the responsible center of the psyche/soul -- the subjective agent who is (hopefully) awake at the wheel, making wise use of the many kinds of powers at our disposal (body, memory, imagination, reason, will . . . ). Indeed, much of counseling seems to be about empowering the Ego to become more responsible and less at the mercy of unconscious forces, social expectations, and a lifetime of conditioning.

I like Jung's approach, and pretty much adopted it in my doctoral dissertation (see this thread for more info, especially pages 16-22). There I speak of Ego authenticity as foundational for spiritual growth, and in later writings I described the development of the Ego through various stages (body, emotional, mental, spiritual), each of which goes along with the kind of emergence described in Spiral Dynamics. See this image, for example. Far from losing one's
Ego on the spiritual journey, the opposite is the case: we eventually awaken to the spiritual root of the Ego, which is naught but the spiritual awareness of the soul itself.

What say ye?
05 May 2006, 05:10 PM
Interesting that "I am," spoken by Jesus in the Gospel of John is, in the Greek, ego eimi. I think that might work nicely with your statement:

Far from losing one's
Ego on the spiritual journey, the opposite is the case: we eventually awaken to the spiritual root of the Ego, which is naught but the spiritual awareness of the soul itself.

Maybe we mistake "being", as in ego, with pride or have come to link the two.

I'll have to go read your links now Wink

God bless,
05 May 2006, 05:28 PM
Yes, Terri, Ego = I.

What we lose on the journey is not the Ego, but the many ways we have "frozen" the Ego through identification with labels, roles, judgments, etc. The essence of Ego is simply "I am." Our roles, judgments, etc. aren't necessarily untrue, but they do not completely define us.

- - -

Here's another way to think of it: the consciousness by means of which the Ego is conscious is the awareness of the soul itself (or itSelf). So Ego and Self are not two different things; one does not lose Ego to awaken to Self, as Self is immanent in Ego and is the very awareness of Ego. The problem is that, in our false self conditioning and brokenness, the Ego has lost awareness of its root in Self, and so tries to fabricate for itself another foundation for identity . . . let's call it the "self-image," or "self-concept." Behold Narcissus! But the problem, here is not Ego, but its centeredness in self-image.
05 May 2006, 06:13 PM
I guess that's why we see so many people who identify themselves by what they have, how they look, or even through their children's achievements. Rather than being who they are, they attach these shells, for lack of a better word, in order to either avoid searching themselves for who they really are or to convince themselves and others they are really the shell? Something like that?
05 May 2006, 08:54 PM
One thing that I have found very helful are accountability groups. I have people who love and care about me who let me know when I am off the beam. Another more brutal method is to announce to
a sometimes hostile world that you are a follower of
Jesus Christ. Those who claim ignorance of the Christian faith have a remarkeable knowlege of just how a Christian is supposed to behave, and are quick to detect any hypocrisy. (Just happened to me Wednesday) Truth telling and admission of failure before both freinds and so called enemies
can be humbling and useful.

God is not out to hurt my pride. He wants to kill it outright! Wink
06 May 2006, 01:14 AM
Something like what you describe, Terri . . . people attaching to all kinds of things. There's a bit of overlap here with that thread on the false self, as the Ego can become quite caught up in false self tendencies. And as MM points out, practicing truthfulness and honesty can help the Ego become disentangled.


Shifting gears slightly, I know many of you are familiar with Bernadette Roberts' books and teachings. What's noteworthy here is her view of Ego, which is quite different from what I've described above. For Bernadette, Ego is a kind of energy -- willfulness, or selfishness. One struggles with Ego (in this sense) and wears it down through a life of love and sacrifice until there is little trace of it to be found. As Ego is diminished, one becomes increasingly established in the Unitive State as there is no longer an inner will or energy to resist God. This is not yet the no-self state; for Bernadette, that begins when even the Unitive State (God-Self union) falls away.

This is obviously a highly idiosyncratic understanding of Ego, but at least she explains what she means by it, and it resonates with the understanding most have about Ego as a bad thing. Having met and corresponded extensively with Bernadette Roberts, however, I can guarant-told-tee you that she still has an Ego in the sense that I've described it above. There is still with her a conscious subject of attention, intelligence and freedom, and it's simply ludicruous to consider this subject to be anything but human, no-self notwithstanding.

IOW, even for those who are "enlightened" and supposedly live in a nondual state of consciousness, there is something -- someone! -- exercising the mind and will, though not in the service of the kind of selfishness and willfulness we find in immature people under the sway of the false self. What I would say is that we see, in these enlightened souls, the clarity of the Spiritual Ego. They are awake to the consciousness of the soul in both its non-reflective and reflective aspects, and can freely tune into one or the other by shifting the attention one way or the other. A profound immensity and depth of presence is found in such souls, although they may also seem very simple and and down-to-earth. When/if, additionally, one is blessed with mystical graces, then God's presence shines forth through the Ego as well.

More on some of this later. I wonder if this is making sense?
07 May 2006, 05:00 PM
Could you explain, in simple lay terms, the difference between the reflective and non-reflective states or aspects? I'm not sure I have a real grasp on that.

(Sure am glad the board is back up and running Wink )

07 May 2006, 06:27 PM

And so you seem to be saying that non-dual awareness is inherently unstable, inasmuch as creature and Creator/present moment-Eternity are distinct.

Also, what I found exceptional in B. Roberts' accounts is the lack of Jesus' presence in her experience. She seemed pre-disposed to non-duality early on, from childhood, which I think you've pointed out before.

Questions (which may need another thread, or reference to one already available from years past):

1) Were you impressed that B.R's was free of an affective ego?

2) What was her account, from her experience, re: the "Otherness" of God? Her books suggest this Otherness dissolves into pure immanent presence, yet with a human observing ego still intact it is hard to imagine how this can be.
07 May 2006, 07:30 PM
Ahh yes, good that my server ( finally got its act together re. processing perl scripts.


Terri, what I mean by non-reflecting consciousness is that our consciousness is not merely reflecting/intentional, but also observational and even "transcendent" to our experiences. This "witnessing" aspect is simply "present-to" one own inner operations and activities, and is what makes it possible for us to not only recount experiences from memory, but to know that these are "our"memories. It is not a different self/I than reflecting consness -- the Ego in its acts of thinking, feeling, deliberationg, choosing, etc.

Daniel Helminiak describes it this:
Reflecting and nonreflecting consciousness are concommitant. As you experience any object, you aslo experience yourself as the experiencing subject. These two awarenesses must be simultaneous if later you are to reflect on your experience. If you were not aware of your experiencing, you would have no experience to reflect back on. Were you aware only in one mode -- reflectingly -- and only of one thing at a time -- only of objects -- you would have no experience on the basis of which to say you ever experienced anything. You would indeed have experienced a series of objects, all passing by as some stream of stimuli, and a human observer could report on your string of "experiences." But you yourself could not report having experienced those objects; you would not be conscious of your experiencing. To be able to report experiencing them . . . you would also have had to be aware of your experiencing them. Indeed, to report about objects experienced is precisely to report your experience of those objects.

So to know an object is to know yourself as experiencing that object. And were you not able to experience yourself experiencing an object even while you were experiencing the object, you could not know that object. That is to say, nonreflecting consciousness is the condition for the possibility of knowing any object. Consciousness as conscious is logically -- but not chronologically -- prior to consciousness as intentional.

So knowing an object entails somehow appropriating the object to yourself and then knowing yourself. In experiencing yourself-experiencing-the-object, you know what constituted that experience of yourselve and you know the experienced object. . .
I hope that all makes sense. His chapter on this topic in The Human Core of Spirituality is worth the price of the book and even lays out what I believe to be another way to understand enlightenment. The relevance of all this to topics like no-Ego, no-self, etc. are summed up by Helminiak:
To be able to report your experiences is to have a sense of self. Nonreflecting awareness "of" oneself as the experiencing subject links the flow of ongoing experiences as the experiences of a somebody. So nonreflecting consciousness is the key to the human sense of personal continuitity and identity. Said in other terms, it is a spiritual nature that makes human animals persons. Our awareness "of" ourselves as ongoing somebodies is the nonreflecting awareness that characterizes human consciousness. . .

"I" who speak about myself and speak in terms of "me" am not someone other than the "me" about whom "I" speak. Yet the experience presupposed when I speak saying "I" is not the same as that in "me." "Me" is the self as objectified, as known reflectingly to "I," yet all the while "I" am aware of myself as something more than the object, "me." That something more is not others thoughts or feelings or inklings that may be hard to express. . . that something more is the "I" of an aware subject who, as the present acting agent, is always more than the "me" who was, regardless of how well "me" is expressed. To say "I" suggests the awareness of an identity and personal continuity that incudes but also transcends whatever is said of "me."

So consideration of the difference between "me" and "I" provides another access to understanding human spirit. The very possibility os saying "I" and of knowing oneself as "me" depends on human spirit's being both conscious and intentional, nonreflecting and reflecting.
In light of Helminiak's approach, which is based on the philosophy of Bernard Lonergan, S.J., we might say that Self is "I" and Ego is "me." As he notes, these are different experiences -- Self being the subject of attention, and me being something of the subject of experience and intention. These are not two different subjects, as I noted above.


I'll get to your questions eventually, w.c. I just have little more ground to cover, first.
07 May 2006, 07:51 PM
So in light of the above, what sense does it make for one to say they have no self or no "I"? If that were the case, then one could not report on one's experiences as one's own. Ramana Maharishi could not describe his "death" nor what it was like nor what the food tasted like at breakfast. Bernadette Roberts's long, detailed descriptions of the falling away of the unitive state and all the subtle changes that followed in her manner of experiencing also presume this nonreflecting "I" that is present to all her experiences. As this "I" is Self (in Lonergan's metaphysics), it makes no sense to speak of a loss of Self.

Loss of Ego is another matter, however. Once the "me" recognizes its connection with the "I," then there is a loosening of its constant referencing to self-image. It has discovered its root and foundation, which was there all along as the subjectivity implicit in all Ego experiences. So it might be said that an Ego awakening to itself as identical with "I" would be the end of any sharp distinctions between "I" and "Me," or between nonreflecting and reflecting consciousness. One could still reflect and make acts of intention . . . even speak of a "Me." But any "Me" in contradistinction from "I" is known to be a fiction.

Those of you who've read Bernadette know how, with the falling away of what she calls "self," she begins to experience what she calls "pure subjectivity." Given the poverty of her metaphysical system, she has no way to account for this, except to consider it Christ. After all, if Ego and Self are gone, then what other subject of attention could be left? Well, in the understanding I've shared, here, I think what she's calling no-self is really what I've just described as enlightenment -- Ego awakening to itself as I-manifest. And what she's calling pure subjectivity is naught but Self, or "I." One might speak, here, of the Ego as spiritual -- as awake to itself as "I." When/if this is accompanied by the falling away of affective memory (which is sure to be the case one self-image is seen for what it is), then there appears to be a loss of intentionality and affectivity . . . the mind becomes silent . . . "I" and "Me" become known as one as the same . . . "I" (as "Me") am "That" (the very same subject as "I").

So, now, what is "I"? Is it Atman/God? The subjectivity of the soul? What do you all think?
07 May 2006, 08:47 PM
Hope you enjoy hooking us by the lip and watching us wiggle on your fishin' line, Uncle Remus . . . . .

Several things come to mind here for "me."

Recently I had to make a split-second swerve in my car to avoid a guy who decided to turn back onto the freeway at about a 90 degree angle after exiting. The "I" or witnessing consciousness seemed to come from background to foreground awareness in no time at all, and had me operating my car like I was possessed by Mario Andretti (whom I assume can still drive . . . ).

This is what Benjamen Libet, the experimental/cognitive psychologist calls the unconscious will. His tests show that the unconscious will acts prior to any information reaching conscious awareness. This also reminds of the research detailing the "second brain," which shows an entire nervous system in the stomach and intestines independent/interdependent of the central nervous system, as well as what it feels like when kundalini begins to respond more consciously, such as when my body expresses itself in prayer (mudras as referred to in Hinduism). There's also research by the HeartMath Institute, and by cardiologists who've edited a book entitled "neuro-cardiology" showing similar mechanisms; these seem governed by kundalini, and Bernadette Roberts' experience seems to involve a great deal of kundalini activity.

This non-reflecting consciousness also seems to be what registers the experience of "intuition of being," where one's awareness is dilated and the aliveness of life appears, simulaneously inside and out, and the trance drops away and you are apprehended by the richness of it all.

Yet, so very different from the Holy Spirit, where non-reflective consciousness is taken up into the non-Created Eternal, with reflective consciousness mostly suspended except for feeling dumb-founded, and occasionally able to make little sighs, etc . . . Then one seems to "see" the purpose of each of these aspects of consciousness: to receive and give through worship.

Little wonder that "praise" is so easily misunderstood, since to the reflective consciousness alone there is no access or attraction.

So my vote is "subjectivity of the soul." When this dilation of the Eternal seeping through into the unstable present moment occurs, then it would seem easy to confuse the Eternal for one's own consciousness.
07 May 2006, 09:12 PM
Another easily seen example of the unconscious will, or non-reflective consciousness, is the way the sexual impulse functions, yearning for union, which it only finds in worship, where lust rises up into the heart and is transformed into a non-reflective receptivity much like the rapture of praise, or in taking delight in the happiness of someone without having to own them (which wouldn't be delight).

I would also say this impulse of the unconscious will toward delight and praise is lost to many of us adults as our facility for genuine play withers, which seems in children to be a form of worship or relational celebration not needing to objectify itself, i.e, engage reflective consciousness; kids often don't seem to know what they are doing when they play: singing along, pulled into some richness of life that has them being known by it yet not able to step out of it and tell us adults what all the fuss is about without losing the flow; they are often so dissappointed in us!

As we lose this facility through impaired relationships that no longer mirror and deepen and connect reflective consciousness to its essential goodness known via non-reflective intuition of being (development of the true self dynamic), little wonder we develop addictions that primarily involve distortions of the unconscious will; hence, most interventions fail to access this.
07 May 2006, 09:19 PM
Other thoughts . . .

The meditation practice that has us, in some way, being aware of awareness, often leaves a denuded feeling. There is more to the non-reflective consciousness than simply observing our capacity to observe, but where its spontaneous expressions of aliveness are thwarted during early development much of its richness which would resonate with the aliveness of life on the "outside" is lost. I suspect that this is because such richness is quite vulnerable and threatening for the false self which depends upon conscious reflection to constrain those energies which seem so chaotic.

And so I'd say the energies of the unconscious will are relational, rather than simply an observing response. The latter isn't, it seems, what the dyamic is meant for; its capacity seems to be in being drawn into something greater than itself so the responses of praise and gratitude can arise.
07 May 2006, 11:10 PM

Sorry to stray into the false self context with this, as you seem to want to focus more on differentiating functions of the ego and the self in relation to the soul/spirit.

It does seem like non-duality is nevertheless a relational dynamic: we are not objects, but receptive creature-subjects meant to adore the Eternal Who cannot objectify us and, therefore, subject-object cannot arise for us either in that supernaturally graced-state. However, in the Zen-version of non-duality, where the relational quality is prescriptively austere and not spoken of, the Eternal is only received by the limited faculties within the inherently unstable present moment which doesn't facilitate the "I-Thou" character of the soul when it is beyond its own knowing via this infusion of supernatural grace.
07 May 2006, 11:35 PM
Okay, well, I'm going to have to read this all through a time or few before the explanations and discussion sink Interesting stuff, though!
08 May 2006, 12:36 AM
Well, I'd hoped the "I" vs. "me" comparison would make sense. I think it's one of those kinds of things that becomes obvious once you "see" it, experientially. But I think you can see that one of my points is that it never makes sense for humans to speak of "no-self" as long as they're reporting on their experiences.

Also, re. the false self and all the brokenness that feeds into it, the upshot is an intensification of Egoic "me" consciousness, as it is precisely the responsibility of the Ego to direct the resources of the mind and will unto healing. w.c.'s thread on the false self describes these dynamics in detail.

w.c., what you're calling an "unconscious will" is what Bernadette Roberts describes as "doing." Basically, what this means is that most of what we "do" isn't being consciously, reflectively directed. Conscious reflection can intrude and re-direct us this way or that, of course, but, generally, it takes only the faintest of thoughts and intentions to set us in a direction. It's not only an unconscious will that's in play, but complicated skill sets that function more or less habitually and robotically that come to the fore. We get up and walk, shower, eat, drive cars, etc. without doing much reflection about it all. At best, the Ego is just sort of monitoring what's happening, and stepping in when needed to direct or re-direct us this way or that.


Yes, I agree that the "I" is the subjectivity of the soul itself. As such, it "belongs" to an individual; my "I" is not accessible to another, although my "I" can directly sense the presence of another subject, including God's presence (Self is God's habitat, as it were).

The "I" is also contingent; it cannot account for its existence. Easterners speak of it as "arising," and that's a good way to put it. All we know is that we're here, and this awareness seems "irreducible" to prior states of consciousness. So "that" "I" exists presumes an a priori creative act of some kind -- existence given by a Giver. That's really what the intuition of being investigates through the dynamics of awareness.

It's easy to see why Catholic theology has regarded the soul as a special creation of God. We can understand how the body evolved from prior forms and trace that all the way back to the creation of matter, I suppose. But the spiritual awareness of the soul isn't like that. It encompasses the energies of the body and the psyche (animal consciousness), but isn't derived from them; rather, it "in-forms" and "en-spirits" these levels so they exist for the soul and within the soul while retaining their own domains of lawfulness. Even in systems that acknowledge reincarnation, the remembrance of previous lives presumes an "I" that was present to all those lifetimes and, at some point, had a beginning. Interestingly, this explanation of "I" accounts for how even in hypnotic regressions, we can find descriptions of very early experiences -- even going back to the womb. "I" was there, observing and experiencing, though with not much of a coherent Ego.

From the above, it should be obvious that "I" cannot be God, for God is not contingent being. Also, "I" has no "natural knowledge" of God other than what it senses from the fact of its contingency and the implication of a Giver of existence. As spiritual, "I" does open into infinity -- hence, the description of it as "cosmic consciousness." But this is not God, either. It is simply the soul awake to its natural spirituality, which transcends the dimensions of the physical universe.

Contingency, our primate mammalian psyche (highly social in its disposition), and the kind of spirit we were created to be by God (to know and love God) make it impossible for the "I" to find complete happiness and fulfillment through "self-realization" alone. At every level of our being, we were created for relationship, and the "I" is not truly fulfilled, nor does it truly realize its full potential, until it becomes an integral part of a "We."
08 May 2006, 10:09 AM
Let me see if I'm getting anywhere in the ballpark of understanding. The "I" is the part of us that is something akin to the consequence of simply being human. "I" observes, experiences, and assimilates the surroundings. The "me" is more like the "person" of who we are that takes the information from the "I", so to speak, and makes decisions, uses reason, and incorporates the information into being or becoming the "me." The result being the "whole" person. Is that anywhere close?

I just hate it when I have something tickling around the edges of comprehension, but I can't quite wrap my mind around the full context of the explanation...argh!
08 May 2006, 12:38 PM
Well, good for you to hang in there with this somewhat esoteric topic, Terri. Smiler

Let's try this: you know how when you have a dream, you experience yourself as one of the characters -- maybe even with the same bodily appearance and personality you know yourself to have in everyday life. And so in this dream you are talking to people, running, driving, falling, flying, etc. You experience this dream character as "yourself" and other people and symbols to be someone/something else. What you call "yourself" in the dream is your Ego self . . . your "me" . . . and the dream is showing something about how the Ego is relating to others/situations.

OK so far?

Now consider the fact that there is a deeper "witness" of the dream itself, including observation of the Ego. This is a little trickier, I know, as we're generally so identified with our Ego selves in the dream we don't even notice this other perspective-- that of the observer who is "outside the dream," as it were, watching it. This "see-er" of the dream is what I mean by the "I" or Self. It is also what Helminiak means by "non-reflecting consciousness."

Does that make sense?

As I've mentioned above, once one notices this, it's the most obvious thing in the world, and one can then see how this dynamic goes on outside of dream states as well. There is always this observing, witnessing "I" consciousness (or consciousness of consciousness), and it is not the same kind of experience as the reflective intentional self/Ego. It is not a separate self or another being, either; it is not God. The Self and the Ego are one and the same subject of attention, only one stands "outside" of the realm of experience and the other is immersed in it.

Analogically, one can imagine something of the same for God. . . that the universe and all created beings are present to God as our dreams and experiences are present-to Self. . . that the ominpresent God "sees" all things -- even our own seeing. This corresponds very well to our understanding of God as Creator, and if one holds to this as all we can say/know about God, it is easy to see how one ends up with deism, or some kind of theism wherein God is remote or detached. But in Christian understanding, we also believe that God is immersed in creation through the Word, especially in/through the incarnate Word, Jesus Christ. So the Word is to God as Ego is to Self, although analogically, of course. Finally, we note that the presence of an energetic bond between Self and Ego -- kundalini (I'll say more about this later); likewise there is a bond between the Creator and the Word: the Holy Spirit.

This understanding has, for me, deepened my appreciation of what it means to say we are created in God's image and likeness. It has also helped me to clarify the distinction between kundalini and the Holy Spirit.
08 May 2006, 12:57 PM
Yesterday, I pondered and meditated on the assumptiom of many who claim enlightenment, having non-dual consciousness. Certain individuals claiming to be enlightened state that they have now Christ consciousness and are equal to God seeing no separation between God and themselves.

What surfaced within my awareness was that God is the source of all. God is Light, the comsuming fire, the flame, the river of life, the tree of life, all love and all power, all consciousness, etc. Being the Creator, we know that all things where made in and through Christ, the Word.

Being enlightened does not mean that we are equal with God. God is still God, the light and gives us of His light, giving increase of His light to whom He chooses to give to, remaining the source of light. God is the river of life and gives us of His river, remaining the river of life, etc. An example would be to take a bucket of water from the river to pour it into a person, we still have the river and one receives of the river, but the source of the river still is God. Any increase in consciousness is also coming from the source God, who remains as the whole consciousness, etc.

To better clarify it, is to ask an enlightened being: "Are you the source now of all that is God?", or are you a vessel of God who has been given gifts from Him, the source?". "Are you now the Creator God who gives us of your light, your mind, your river, your tree of life?".

When Jesus tells us : "You will see me as I am, because you will be like me". Jesus Christ is still Jesus Christ and we are His brothers who through Him will be allowed to share the throne and inheritance with Him. Without Him, we would be unable to become like Him.

I hope I make some sense in what I am trying to say this morning. Smiler
08 May 2006, 01:12 PM
Yes, that makes sense, Freebird. I suspect that much of what goes by enlightenment is realization of the Self as noted above. On the whole, it doesn't seem to me that Eastern systems do a very good job distinguishing between God and consciousness; even for Wilber, these seem to be one and the same. The tendency is to consider the witnessing/nonreflecting consciousness of consciousness to be divine, in some manner. Yet, as I also noted above, even this experience is completely contingent on a Giver of existence, so it cannot be God in the sense of Creator. It also lacks the perspective of omnipresence and omniscience -- attributes that belong exclusively to God. No one (aside from Christ) can claim such.
08 May 2006, 01:55 PM
The Self and the Ego are one and the same subject of attention, only one stands "outside" of the realm of experience and the other is immersed in it.
Okay...that makes perfect sense Smiler
09 May 2006, 04:52 PM
I'm going to carry on a bit longer, here, mostly to provide a resource for future reference. Anyone feel free to jump in with discussion at any time, however.

Today's installment is a short quote from my doctoral dissertation on God, Self and Ego: An Exercise in Discernment:
We can speculate that, in a perfect world, the emanating Ego
would nonetheless maintain awareness of its root in Self, and the God
within and beyond.(32) Through its ongoing, realized union with Self
as the source of its own subjectivity, the Ego would experience its
unity with other people in Self, and its union with the cosmos
through the lower levels of being present within Self. The holistic
nature of Self would be also realized; no internal splits would be
experienced, no constriction of the Ego from the realm of the
physical body. Something of the glory of God would be known through
Self, and, if God so wished, an inter-subjective relationship between
God and Ego could also exist. No dissolution or negation of Ego-
intentionality would be required to experience this marvelous,
unitive context of development. As long as the Ego maintained the
same "attitude" as Self--open to God, the cosmos, social
relationships, holistic experience--the identity and giftedness
developed by the Ego would not contradict the unitive context.
Indeed, Ego-consciousness would be the crowning glory of creation,
Self, and God. Without an Ego-consciousness, there would be no one
to appreciate the cosmos, no one to express Self, and no one (in this
universe, at least) to praise God for it all.

The moral and spiritual implications of these reflections are
many, the most important being the goodness of the individual and his
or her developmental journey. It is good to be an Ego-consciousness,
desiring to be, to grow, to develop our giftedness, and to share this
with others. To the extent that we can do this in openness to God,
social relationships, unity with the cosmos, and holistic living, we
shall find our Ego experience most rich and meaningful. The problem,
of course, is that this context for Ego-development has been lost,
and, with it, the fullness of a healthy Egoic life.

10 May 2006, 02:21 PM
Here's a description of the awakened, normally subconscious, Self presence, which orientals equate with God. This translation of the Dao De Jing seems to capture, rather, supernatural presence expressed immanently, or where one's refined, yet inherently unstable, faculties are capable of momentarily inuiting the life of life, or the aliveness/beingness of what we are asleep to most of the time:

"Undifferentiated presence,
Spontaneously arising,
Before heaven and earth,
Still and silent, infinite, virtual,
Eternally present
Through innumerable cycles.
It gives birth to the Cosmos,
It is impossible to name,
So I call it pure boundless immensity."

It seems the orientals stopped here, and didn't open themselves to the supernatural in its own terms beyond the faculties where Divine relationship would appear. The inability of creatures to create, sustain themselves immortally, let alone express an Eternal love, is a sure sign that immanent presence reflected in the Self is transcendent of the Self, and more than the Self can see in such a mirroring presence; its own existence, and the beingness of the world itself, seem infinite subjectivities at that point (rather than "I" before such terrifying holiness as can only be an intimate Other).

With the infusion of contemplative grace, the Self knows it is being known both personally and beyond its ability to comprehend; this seems to reach its immanent fullness in this passage from the Dao De Jing. Yet, what occurs to me that is so unique to Christianity is Jesus' claim to have been this pre-existent, transcendental immensity: "Before Abraham was, I am." The Jews knew exactly what he meant, and tried to kill Him for the ultimate blasphemy.

And so this beatiful passage from Taoist literature is far more compelling from the Christian pov, where not only is God the unnameable source and spendor of creation beyond the grasp of human knowing (as the Jews revered the "I am that I am"), but disclosed as equally intimate and personable beyond the heart's capacity to contain.

What if the Tao were to fully incarnate, in a way that Jim Marion described the Hindus as saying is quite simply impossible? Then we would have God not only transcending human categories, but entering them, breaking them open, and leaving us with a new creation, i.e, the Mass.
10 May 2006, 02:43 PM
Right, w.c. I see no reason to consider poems like the one you cite to be other than the non-reflective aspect of the human spirit itself. . . the "I" awake to itself prior to any intentional or reflective act.

A couple of pertinent quotes from Helminiak (book cited above):
While God may well be spirit, all spirit is not therefore God. The divine is God, the Creator. Unless humans are also the Creator, Explanation of All Things, they are not God, their inner nature is not divine. And there is no reasonable evidence that humans are the Explantion of Everything. . .

. . . Inner experience is not evidcence for the divine but merely evidence for something else, human spirit. This matter is a key difference between Western and Eastern thought. . .

. . . These considerations suggest that qualities usually associated only with God are also characteristic of human spirit -- ubiquity, eternity (perspective beyond time), infinity, transcendence, unity, mystery. Of course, as referred to God,, those words take on a different meaning. The difference centers on the fact that in God those words indicate fulfillment, perfection, actuality.
So at least with regard to advaitic types of mysticism (no-self, non-duality), it would be very difficult to demonstrate how or why these should be considered anything more than a deep experience of non-reflecting consciousness. As Deepak Chopra describes the experience: "I am aware only of the fact that I am aware." The kinds of faculties involved in reflecting consciousness seem to have not yet asserted themselves; what we have is a rather direct experience of awareness prior to their manifestation (the face we have before we are "born" as Ego). It's sort of like the "eye" aware not of what it sees, but "that" it sees.
10 May 2006, 08:47 PM
Mystic's Maze
Enjoyed reading the posts and discussion. Semantics is everything - whether one's interest is esoteric or practical. "I" vote for the "I" as God, in that one becomes co-creator in that unity state.

My practical interests require a simpler working vocabulary than what has been outlined above, in which I/ChristSelf as the observer of ego (learned self) are more easily accessible for those who are suffering. And since we begin adapting to our limited surroundings the moment we find ourselves awake, the ego can quickly lose all memory of why we came here, or become so lost in the world of egos that returning home is nearly impossible. It is those souls separated from the Divine even though they vividly remember - that seem to me most in need of a way back.

Re Phil's post: "Loss of Ego is another matter, however. Once the "me" recognizes its connection with the "I," then there is a loosening of its constant referencing to self-image. It has discovered its root and foundation, which was there all along as the subjectivity implicit in all Ego experiences. So it might be said that an Ego awakening to itself as identical with "I" would be the end of any sharp distinctions between "I" and "Me,"

MM: What a blessing it would be to find oneself with such a balanced rational ego. Seriously, I've never had the pleasure of encountering one. But, coming at the same issue from the opposite direction - to have an original innate awareness of "being the observer," a unity state and certainty of being, how tragic to crash and burn, forever separated from the Divine because there is no language to describe the return journey.

Phil: "Those of you who've read Bernadette know how, with the falling away of what she calls "self," she begins to experience what she calls "pure subjectivity." Given the poverty of her metaphysical system, she has no way to account for this, except to consider it Christ. After all, if Ego and Self are gone, then what other subject of attention could be left? Well, in the understanding I've shared, here, I think what she's calling no-self is really what I've just described as enlightenment -- Ego awakening to itself as I-manifest... the mind becomes silent . . . "I" and "Me" become known as one as the same . . . "I" (as "Me") am "That" (the very same subject as "I").

MM: This sounds reasonable, but, perhaps we might consider this as her way of describing her experience of the crucifixion metaphor - the veil of temple torn away (at the moment of Christ's death.) I now wonder if Chopra's concise contemporary description of "entering the gap between thoughts with the truth" isn't the same essential experience. Which brings me to the first issue I mentioned regarding the "I" as God, a co-creator state. My experience has been that there is a definite consequence of such an emptied state - akin to a dimensional shift. One reality replaced by another. Eckhart speaks of it as - God entering the soul emptied of self. Anyone else with similar experiences?