My impression is that the ego is the most often referenced and most often misunderstood construct in all of the spirituality literature that I have seen.
Sure, it is good to be able to transcend the ego, break the illusion of separation, and experience oneness with God and the universe. Yes, it is definitely a trap to act out from our wounded egos, from our pathologies that cover up our beautiful souls and spirit. It is absolutely hugely limiting if we can only experience reality from the standpoint of the ego, from the perspective of the little me, in this little body with only a tiny little window out into the vastness of the universe. And, our egos exist for a reason and are not the enemy. What’s the expression? Hate the crime not the criminal. The truth is that a vast majority of people on this planet have egos that are less than 100 percent healthy, so when we see unhealthy egos acting out all the time and creating all sorts of problems, we begin to make the perceptual error of seeing ego as the problem.
Ego is not the problem. Wounded ego acting out is the problem.This type of thinking is very egoic anyway. What is the structure that sees things as problems, resists and fights things? The ego, of course. It is sadly ironic that so many people on a spiritual path are engaged in a battle in which they are trying to overcome their egos, trying to defeat their egos, trying to dissolve out or otherwise negate the existence of their egos. The part of them engaged in these battles is their ego. All of these well-meaning people on an earnest spiritual path are stuck because their ego is in conflict with itself. This inner egoic conflict takes a lot of energy and doesn’t get anyone anywhere at all. It is like a dog burning off lots of energy and calories by chasing its tail. I would recommend to any of you that find yourself in this situation, to take a step back and reconsider the situation, to stop chasing your tail.
A useful analogy when thinking of the ego is viewing our physical body as a cell and our ego our cell membrane. The cell membrane performs some incredibly important functions, and the cell cannot live without it. Without the cell membrane to provide a boundary between the inside of the cell and the rest of the world, that cell would not be alive. Its ingredients could be there, floating around as an unstructured mass of cytoplasm, proteins and all the other items that make up a cell, but it would have no life. Sure, the cytoplasm might enjoy the ecstasy of being one with the surrounding environment, but living in a state of pure consciousness does not require a human body or human birth. We are born in this human body for a reason, and this human body needs an ego to function in this physical realityOur egos, like cell membranes, can have pathologies. Perhaps the cell membrane is not good at allowing nutrient into the cell. Perhaps it is fooled by pathogens that it mistakes for nutrient and it lets them inside, only to find the pathogen destroying and killing the cell. Perhaps the cell membrane is too rigid, so the cell has trouble squeezing through tight quarters and sliding by other friendly cells that are able to adapt their shapes to accommodate movement. Perhaps the cell membrane has some debris stuck to it that is blocking important receptors. Perhaps it has a problem ejecting waste from inside of the cell. In each of these instances, we might look at the cell membrane and think it is causing all sorts of problems. Cell membranes must be bad. I want to get rid of mine.
The reality is that the cell membrane is totally, absolutely 100 percent essential for sustaining life. The reality is that it is responsible for so many functions, and it is exposed to so many difficult environmental factors all the time—from both the inside and the outside—that a lot can go wrong. A totally, 100 percent healthy, perfectly functioning cell membrane is a rare and beautiful thing.
I believe this cell membrane analogy to be useful in teaching us a lot about our egos, but it does break down at some point. We are not cells. And, as such, even though we need our egos, like a cell needs a cell membrane, and even though our egos perform so many functions and are subjected to difficult environmental factors all the time—just as cell membranes are—we are, in fact, able to learn how to transcend our egos. We can find safe environments where it’s OK to drop the ego and reunite our solitary consciousness with the one consciousness. We are able to have spiritual experiences that transcend ordinary, first person identity consciousness.We are able to shift out of first person and move into observational mind or soul identification, move into God consciousness and take various journeys with our conscious awareness.
While there are these important differences, there are more similarities as well. Like cells, we are able to repair our cell membrane; we are able to heal our wounded egos. Instead of hating our egos, or trying to conquer our egos, we can choose to love our egos and heal them.
About four years ago, I read Journey of Souls: Case Studies of Life Between Lives in which the author, Michael Newton, indicates that our souls have egos even when we are not in our physical bodies, when we are between lives. This assertion actually makes sense to me, because when I contemplate healing the ego, what I actually see is necessary is healing the soul. They are one and the same, or rather, different aspects of a functioning whole. If to heal the ego we need to heal any wound that causes us to behave in a way that does not serve us with regards to how we relate to other people or the outside world, or heal any wound that has to do with letting go of energetic waste and allowing nutrient in, and all the analogous functions of a cell membrane—if this is what is required to heal the ego, then a lot of what we are talking about is healing our emotional, physical, mental, energetic and soul bodies.
We are talking about healing all of our self, entirely and completely. And, when we are fully healed and whole, our ego will be too, and we will be glad we have one. A healthy ego can do a lot of worthwhile things, including protecting us, defending us and not allowing us to be victimized again, keeping us from continuing to reinforce and strengthen the bad karma involved.