Glossary of Spiritual Wisdom
Excerpts about Ego Activity
Activity that is the Life of the Ego Self
The perspective of each aspect is seen as a way of freedom from the self of ego. Each aspect becomes understood in its relation to the self, and to the experience of dissolution of this self. This is a wide and deep level of essential experience, which ultimately leads to the experience of ego death, or the annihilation of the self. This happens through the detailed, specific, and objective understanding of the identity of ego. The work is deep and profound, involving realizations that are shattering to one’s identity with ego. The gist of the understanding has to do with what is called ego activity. This is the inner activity, psychic activity, which is the life of the ego self, which cannot exist without this activity. This realization crystallizes in a direct, experiential understanding of hope and desire, which are the main activities of ego. The ego activity is fueled by hope and desire for the good, the pleasurable and the safe, along with movement away from the bad, the painful and the frightening. To hope is to hope for something in the future that is not present in the now. This implies that the now is not completely accepted. It is judged as not good enough, if not actually bad. It indicates the absence of complete acceptance of one’s experience. Since Essence is Being, it is always in the now. So the movement of hope is automatically a rejection of the now, and a rejection of Being.
Pearl Beyond Price, pg. 389
Ego Activity is Based on Memories
Some teachings see ego in terms of its activity, which is primarily desire for future pleasure. This desire for pleasure, which entails avoidance of pain, involves rejecting the present situation and hoping for a better one. The cycle of ego activity is thus rejection, hope and desire; it is based on memories of past experience, and is directed towards the future. Thus ego, which here is an activity which resists the present moment, is clearly antithetical to the perception of the nature of reality, which involves being in the moment.
Pearl Beyond Price, pg. 20
Ego Activity Itself is Suffering
The I, the ego, is engaged in continual activity: rejecting, wanting, justifying, judging, discriminating. This activity itself is suffering, and is the source of the point of view which believes in its separateness. As long as you are engaged in any desire to change things inside you, to want something to be different, you're coming from ego and identified with that point of view. You cannot perceive reality as long as you are looking at the world from the perspective of ego. To act from that point of view means to perpetuate it. The moment you think of change, of fundamental transformation, of enlightenment, you are speaking from the point of view of the ego.
Diamond Heart Book Two, pg. 140
Generation of the Personality
Yes. Rejection is also based on memories. Not only is there activity in going after what you hope for, but there is also activity in avoiding or rejecting something.This pattern involves an alternation between pleasure and pain. There is something that we call pleasure and something that we call pain. From this distinction comes rejection, hope and desire. But you can see that when you’re rejecting the present, you’re pushing against it, you’re rejecting it. That very action is a contraction. At the deepest level, that action is a frustration. The heart of contraction is always a state of frustration. And the more you reject, the more you feel the frustration. And the more you reject, the more you feel the frustration. The more you feel the frustration, the more desire you have to release the frustration. But it’s a vicious cycle, as you can see. The more you reject, the more there is contraction, the more frustrated you become. Then you want to do something that will release the frustration. But you do this by hoping for something in the future and rejecting the present, which creates more frustration, which makes you hope even more to release it. So you hope some more, you push, and more frustration is created. This cycle generates the personality, and it is the experience of the personality itself. This cycle is what we call ego activity. When you really feel it, the actual substance of the personality is a feverishness, a lack of stillness, a lack of contentment. When you feel desire, it’s that frustration, too. Part of the desire that we feel is a rejection of the present and a hope for something else, which brings frustration. The very movement of the personality is frustration, and the existence of the personality is that movement. The very existence of the personality is that reactivity. It’s a reaction, not a spontaneous action, which I will talk about when I discuss doing.
Diamond Heart Book Three, pg. 179
Inner Life that Replaces the Inner Manipulation of Ego Activity
We have seen that inquiry is based on remaining open and without positions. It is guided by the true knowingness of what is happening in our experience, and it is not goal-oriented. Its only interest is the revelation of the truth. You could say that inquiry is the aesthetic appreciation of what our Being reveals. So in some sense, as we learn to do it, we reclaim our free dynamism. In fact, inquiry is an expression of that dynamism. It coincides with the true unfoldment of our Being, which we call understanding. Learning the open attitude of inquiry counteracts our tendency to limit and subvert the free dynamism. With practice, inquiry becomes a mode of inner life that replaces the inner manipulation of ego activity. So instead of trying to do something about a particular state or feeling, for example, we open ourselves to find out and understand it. This changes the whole orientation of our psyche, because ego activity tends to limit true openness. In fact, ego activity blocks the dynamism from its natural freedom and spontaneity because it is based on what we believe is true. In ego activity, we take for granted the knowledge we have accumulated, without questioning it. We take our learning to be conclusive, while inquiry is based on recognizing what is possible and not taking anything as final. That is because its kernel, which is a question, is openness, an openness that wants to find out. We choose to invite Being to freely display its richness.
Spacecruiser Inquiry, pg. 324
The Delusion of a Separate Will
By pitting yourself against what is, you are acting according to the delusion that you have a separate will and that you can have your own way, different from what is happening. This is one of the principles of ego: that you have a separate will and that you have choice. Even when you believe that you are helpless and can't do things, there is the implicit belief that if it weren't for your helplessness, you could have your own way. From this egoic perspective, it seems obvious that you need to tinker with things, both inwardly and outwardly. This manifests externally as manipulating other people to make them conform to how you think they need to be for you, and internally as constantly evaluating your experience to see whether it is "right" or not, and trying to change it if it doesn't match your ideas of how you think you should be. "What state am I in? Oh, no! I'm being reactive -- that's no good -- I should be just being. Now I'm being. Good, good. I should stabilize that," and so on, as if it were up to you to make your state become this or that. If you contemplate your experience, you will see this constant activity. The moment you are identified with your ego, you are involved in this activity of trying to make yourself feel better, and not scared or unhappy or empty. All ego defenses are based on this principle of changing your experience to make it conform to how you think it should be.
Facets of Unity, pg. 129
The Vicious Cycle of Ego Activity
But it's a vicious cycle, as you can see. The more you reject, the more there is contraction, the more frustrated you become. Then you want to do something that will release the frustration. But you do this by hoping for something in the future and rejecting the present, which creates more frustration, which makes you hope even more to release it. So you hope some more, you push, and more frustration is created. This cycle generates the personality, and it is the experience of the personality itself. This cycle is what we call ego activity. When you feel it, the actual substance of the personality is a feverishness, a lack of stillness, a lack of contentment. When you feel desire, it's that frustration, too. Part of the desire that we feel is a rejection of the present and a hope for something else, which brings frustration. The very movement of the personality is frustration, and the existence of the personality is that movement. The very existence of the personality is that reactivity. It's a reaction, not a spontaneous action.
Diamond Heart Book Three, pg. 179
There is No Separate Thing That Is Ego
As the restricted self, what we call the ego, lets go, its very substance unfolds like a flower. The ego doesn't die but transforms. The ego is nothing but the perspective of the surface of the soul, which is the true being. Many spiritual traditions go on about slaying the ego. But you can't kill the ego. There is no separate thing that is ego. The ego is action, simply an activity that fastens your being, your soul, your psyche, and your self in a particular way. The fixation and rigidity of the ego calcifies and forms a dry plaster on your gut that restricts the movement of your soul. As the ego dissolves we experience essence and being more directly. You might be sitting in a cafe when suddenly you experience yourself as an infinite, boundless, emerald green light. You can't help but see the pain and hurt of whoever passes in front of you, and your heart swells with kindness. You want to do whatever you can to alleviate their suffering. That is the emergence of the aspect of compassion.