Egology II

In a previous post, Egology I, we discussed the nature of the ego as such and the different types of egos at play in our natural, everyday experience of the world. I emphasize that by ego we didn’t mean selfishness or any of its negative connotations, which are only a few possibilities for the ego along with its other possibilities such as kindness and generosity, etc. By ego we mean in general “I” at the center of all our experiences, the center of the acts of consciousness, namely the subject of experience as such. We mentioned that the primary function of any ego is to create a situation around itself, to provide a narrative in which it is also the main character: Ego tells the story, and as in every story there is a set and setting in which the story unfolds. The largest setting in which the ego defines itself and narrates its story is the experienced world. World is the background of ego’s narrative, and hence it is also part of that narrative since every narrative is essentially tied to the setting in which it unfolds. World is the largest context, and ego is the story teller that gives meaning to this context and makes it dynamic. We note that by world here is meant the largest context, that is, the horizon of all actual and possible experiences. So, this world-horizon is not the physical universe of sciences; instead, science and its world-picture, along with religions and philosophies and their stories, are themselves narratives within this larger world-horizon which is always in the background of all experiences and which the ego can choose to accept to reject. Gods, angles and demons, creation and destruction, heaven and hell, etc. are all narratives played against this indefinite world-horizon. Thus, we use the sense of the world similar to its sense when we say “a baby was born into this world.”

We also saw that there are different types of egos at play against the world-background: The Empirical Ego and the Transcendental Ego. The empirical ego is the ego that we experience and are constantly aware of; it is our human self which for us has a character and a personality, an identity which is tied to a definite past and a possible future; it is the ego that lives our everyday life. The transcendental ego is the ego, or act-center, that constitutes (creates) and supports the empirical ego but is itself a concealed agent; it is the ego that provides the existence and experiences of the empirical ego. As empirical egos immersed in world-experience we are not aware of the transcendental ego which is constantly operative in the background and hence constituting us and the world of our experiences. The same way that the empirical ego constitutes a narrative for itself as a person-in-the-world attached to an identity, the transcendental ego constitutes the empirical ego and its world-experiences with which the empirical ego identifies itself.

While the empirical ego experiences itself as an object in the world, the transcendental ego is not a part of the world and instead stands outside it; the world is itself a narrative constituted, or created, by the transcendental ego. Here is an analogy: When you are telling a story, say to your child, your voice is that which keeps the story together and hence meaningful; it is the support of that narrative. Your voice itself is not part of the story, nor is it something entirely detached from the story: The story in its every moment depends on your voice; its existence is derived from the existence of your voice. The moment you stop reading the story it collapses into oblivion. In other words, your voice is something outside the story and yet tied to it, imparting existence and reality to the story. In a similar fashion, the transcendental ego is not part of the phenomenal world, and is not something human, and yet the existence of this world and the empirical ego depends on the continuous operation of the transcendental ego who is the agent constituting the phenomenon of world-horizon and the empirical ego itself as another phenomenon within it.

It is the transcendental ego that is constantly constituting the empirical ego and its experiences of the world, while the empirical ego takes this world for granted and situates itself in various roles and identities within this world-horizon, roles like a male or female, a lawyer or a beggar, successful or failed, etc. Transcendental ego constitutes all our experiences as phenomena within world-horizon while the empirical ego identifies itself with these phenomena and creates narratives that strengthen this identification. Thus, the world we experience is a mere phenomenon constituted by the transcendental ego and has no independent existence; like a narrative that borrows its existence and reality from the existence and reality of the narrator, our world too owns its existence and apparent reality to the transcendental ego which within the religious context is known as God or Ishvara.

There is a another level without which the constitutions of the transcendental ego, which are the experiences of the empirical ego, would not be known at all, without which there would not be an awareness of any experience whatsoever. This deeper level is called the Witness: it is associated with pure light; it is the light that shines on the constitutions of the transcendental ego, and hence makes the experiences of the empirical ego possible. It is in virtue of the light of the Witness that we know anything at all. Thus, the source of all knowledge is the Witness which itself is not involved in any constitution or creation at all; it is pure and perfect, and though it shines its light on the constitutions of the transcendental ego, it itself is unaffected by all things and also cannot become the object of experience, for it is itself that which makes all experience possible and thus must always lie behind all experiences which are by nature objectifications of the transcendental ego. To be more precise, the Witness cannot be objectified. Therefore, we can interpret the empirical ego and its world-experiences as the creation, and the transcendental ego as God the creator, and the Witness as the Godhead and the Ground of Being the first and the highest manifestation of which is the God the creator, that is, the transcendental ego.

If we happen to be religious and believers in God, the above descriptions must help us to understand the true nature of our relationship with God: God is not an agent that created the world at some point in time and then sat back entirely outside and detached from the world, watching and judging us as if we had our own wills and choices. In reality, God is at the center of our Being, and we are in our essence one with Him. Every moment of existence, and every state of the world, is actively held together by God. Thus, God is constantly sustaining the world, creating it each moment anew and afresh and according to the fundamental orientation of our empirical egos; He does so from within and not from without. Every moment of our being depends on Him and His light. In truth, there is no moment that God is not within us and not aware of everything inside and outside us; all our knowings are in fact His. It is His knowing that runs through all acts of consciousness, a knowing by which we know the contents of the world and of our minds, even the most private thoughts and feelings. Our true relation to God is that of a character in a narrated story to the voice of the story teller.

In another post, Egology III, I will continue this discussion with focus on the fundamental orientations, or fundamental vibrational modes, of the empirical ego.

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