Egology IV

This article is the fourth and the last post of the 4 part series Egology.

In Egology I and Egology II we expressed in detail the nature of ego as such and introduced the two types of ego operative, in a hierarchical order, in the constitution of the world and experience: The Transcendental Ego who constitutes/creates the world and its experience, and the Empirical Ego who lives these world experiences and identifies with various roles in it through the narratives it tells itself. While the empirical ego is human, manifold, and exposed to consciousness, the transcendental ego is non-human, the one in the many, and concealed from consciousness. In Egology III we introduced in detail the principal modalities of the empirical ego, the human subject: Empirical ego has two principal modes of vibration or behavior, the Proactive mode and the Reactive mode, which are associated with the types of narratives the empirical ego tells itself and with which it identifies. We also added that the empirical ego can vibrate in the proactive and the reactive modes simultaneously which is really a superposition of the two principal modes. This superposition state of the empirical ego has an important spiritual function to which we have devoted our present post.

In the previous post, Egology III, we stated that the empirical ego can also vibrate in the proactive and the reactive modes simultaneously which makes it somewhat neutral or indifferent to circumstances, for when the reactive mode and the proactive mode superimpose they tend to cancel one another into a relatively flat line which constitutes a kind of passivity or detachment from the ups and downs of a narrative. We call this mode of the empirical ego the superposition state, its detached mode, or the passive mode which is far from a passive personality truly belonging to the reactive mode.

The passive mode, thus, is not really another principal mode of vibration of the empirical ego but rather the result of the two principal modes, proactive and reactive, superimposing on one another. The empirical ego in its passive mode tends to be more objective in the sense that it identifies itself with circumstances with much less intensity than the ego in either of the two principal modes separately; its narrative is more like the life of a monk. Note that the passive mode of the ego does not necessarily imply a passive personality which is a modality of the reactive mode; ego in passive mode may even be a very active person but it doesn’t identify too much with these activities; it is more detached from and less identified with its narrative compared to the other two modes of the ego. A natural consequence of this detachment is that the ego in passive mode is not too much affected by favorable or unfavorable circumstances, by loss or gain. While the ego in proactive mode uses obstacles to its own advantage and in reactive mode laments over them, nonetheless they are both always entangled in the world and its ups and downs, and hence they are naturally always affected by world events and phenomena. The proactive mode tends toward worldly success while the reactive mode tends toward worldly failure, but the passive mode which is neutral and detached from the worldliness tends more toward liberation from the world as such.

Here is a summary of what we said: The empirical ego which is the constitution/creation of the transcendental ego and also the object of knowledge of the Witness has two principal modes of vibration/behavior which are associated with the nature of the narratives the empirical ego tells itself about itself and its surrounding world. The empirical ego can vibrate in the proactive mode in which it situates (narrates) itself in an epic story and welcoming environment. The empirical ego can also vibrate in the reactive mode in which it situates (narrates) itself in a tragic story and a hostile environment. The empirical ego throughout its world-life usually switches back and forth between the two principal modes; however, in each empirical ego one or another mode of vibration is more dominant.

The empirical ego can also vibrate in a mix of the two principal modes. This vibration of the empirical ego, the human person, is called the passive or detached mode, or the superposition state, of the ego whose narrative is more neutral than either of the two principal modes separately. While the detached ego may be a very active ego in the world, it does not identify itself with those actions and the fruits of those actions. The proactive mode tends toward worldly success; the reactive mode tends toward worldly failure; and the detached ego tends toward liberation from the world as such.

It is important to note that in all these cases, the success, the failure, and the liberation are only narratives and not concrete realities: They are only narratives created by the transcendental ego and told by the empirical ego which is itself a narrative constituted by the transcendental ego and experienced in light of the Witness Consciousness, or what in Hindu metaphysics is called Saksin and in Phenomenology The Disinterested Onlooker.

The true essence of everyone and everything is the Witness, and hence the empirical ego, itself illusory in its existence since it is nothing but a narrative, is a fundamentally free agent that can choose to vibrate in the proactive, reactive, or the mixed passive mode. Liberation or Deliverance consists in liberation from the empirical ego as such and hence from all narratives associated with it. Thus, one who is liberated no more perceives itself as an empirical ego in a world of phenomena, and hence it doesn’t vibrate in any of the modes of the empirical ego: As long as we are empirical egos, perceiving ourselves as human beings in a world, we can’t but vibrate in either of its modes or the mix state. Narrative is essential to the life of the empirical ego which is itself only a vibration; there is always a narrative attached to the empirical ego even in its passive and detached mode who tends toward liberation but not yet truly liberated; its narrative in this mode is the narrative of detachment and liberation from the world.

However, the truly liberated one is in fact liberated from the bonds of all narratives, and hence of worldliness and humanity; it is no more identified with an empirical ego and hence is free from all its vibrations each of which is really a narrative mode. The phenomenal world too, which is itself a mega-narrative against which all other narratives of the empirical ego play, vanishes for the liberated one. This is a very logical meaning of liberation or Deliverance: Since liberation is in fact liberation from all narratives, and since the phenomenal world itself is nothing but a narrative constituted by the transcendental ego, naturally the liberated one becomes free of the world-narrative also, and hence the world ceases to exist for the liberated one.

Change, decay, and, mortality which are the essential features of the world narrative and all its constituents do not apply to the liberated one who has already transcended the world. The liberated one achieves immortality, for it is now identified with nothing but the Witness which is its true nature and essence. We said earlier in Egology II that the Witness which lies entirely outside the world-narrative, space and time, and hence unaffected by it is not subject to any change or decay; It is immortal and immutable. Therefore, the liberated one who directly perceives and realizes its essential identity with the Witness, known as The Supreme Identity, becomes truly immortal and immutable.

We always start things from the human state, from the empirical ego. To ascend the hierarchy of states and stations, that is, egos and vibrations, moving up toward the Witness and Supreme Identity we must first move from the proactive or reactive mode to the passive mode of the empirical ego. This horizontal movement from the two extremes to the middle point takes place in the plane of human existence. Once in the passive or detached mode of the empirical ego we begin our vertical ascent toward the Principle, an ascent which requires leaving behind the human state and moving up through all conditioned states and finally merging in the The Unconditioned, The Witness, The Absolute and The Infinite Principle.

6 thoughts on “Egology IV

  1. Thank you so much for this series. There was a bit of a time gap between 1 and these last 3. Excited to see them on Facebook and more excited to read and absorb them.

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  2. Tomaj, these posts make many things clear. Off late, however one thing keeps resounding from within me. Hope you can throw some light.

    Why is man obsessed with this self- ego? I am just not talking about people who are unaware of the philosophy of non-duality or supreme consciousness, consider me in this case, i know the self-ego is not real, it is just a projection of the transcendental ego. But I feel compelled to purge my ego out for others to see, one way or the other, time and again, even if I try not to.

    I see supposedly introvert people ranting on social media all the time, on seemingly irrelevant things. I rant too, I want people to see hold the kind of intellectual opinions I hold, even though I am very well aware in the scheme of things that is not worth a dime, save for making my self-ego feel good. I am sensitive about people not agreeing with me, and when I see supposed expert opinions on matters of spirituality, their opinions steeped in non-duality as if they were ultimate truths, I get this urge to call them out, as loudly as possible.

    As psychological as it may sound, I am raising this point from a pure spiritual standpoint. I am able to observe here myself that I get this need to purge my self ego out for the world to see, even if I try not to. And when I close myself to this idea of ‘self ego deployment’, it feels as if my life will turn out empty and pointless. Afterall, what is life’s point without strongly establishing our sense of self- identity for others to see?!

    As much as man, as a living being, obsesses about his physical survival, man obsesses about his self – ego as well, I would think. But I also think there is a prioritization here. In ‘the power of now’, an interesting observation is made: we are always steeped in our self-ego, projecting it on the past and future, but when there is an emergency, or a critical situation that needs attention, we become very ‘present’. Our immediate survival(or well being) takes precedence over our obsessions with self ego.
    But at other times when we feel that our self-identity (self-ego in this context) is threatened, it nudges us out to action, we deploy our self-egos subtly through sophisticated expressions, and eventually we delude ourself to thinking that our (self) superiority is established. The more I think about this, the more I am convinced that all the expressions we make to the world out there (other than the absolutely necessary ones), are our self- satiation with this delusion. Don’t you think?

    And amusingly, when I observe myself in the light of all I said above, I can’t help conclude again that man is obsessed with pampering his empirical ego. And in some cases when some people feel that their self-egos are hugely compromised, they end their lives.

    All this ultimately leads to another poser. Why would the Supreme Intelligence conceive such narratives to make us all indulge in such a delusional self-love. It is all One Supreme Constitute, as you observe, yet diffuse in the designs the Supreme intelligence have for us

    Animals can never have such kinds of indulgence, though they do have notions of self with their baser levels of intelligence that makes it enough for their self sustenance and propagation. It is the design of the supreme intelligence. Man with a higher level of intelligence and comprehension, should have ideally known better. But bestowed with the highest level of intellect, he only succumbs to the temptation of establishing his sense of self – superiority, among his own kith and kin. I can’t help concluding that this as well, is a well-meant design of the the Supreme Intelligence.

    My only question would be why?

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    1. Dear Ram G. Thanks for this comment as it is as usual very relevant. And interestingly, this has been my own preoccupation in recent months, that why spirituality is so obsessed with the ego?! And whether spirituality should be obsessed with the ego or not?! Of course, ego is used in various senses. Within phenomenology, and in the Egology series, I tried to define ego not as something good or bad but as a mere phenomenon that we experience, as the center of our individuality, i.e. empirical ego. Now, empirical ego may or may not be selfish. But as we look at things from a more metaphysical and detached point of view, egotism cannot be said to be an evil. As shocking as it may seem to religious authorities (perhaps it disturbs their egos :)) if we really look at things from a nondual point of view, everything that is in this world, including selfishness, has a reason for its being; Everything that we experience has its prototype, or cause, in the supreme intelligence. For example, we have egos because the Supreme Intelligence itself is really like the supreme ego, the ego of the universe (this being just a way of looking at it.) Now Supreme Intelligence leads to manifestation because it arises in it the desire to express itself, to say “I.” In Islamic metaphysics, there is an interesting doctrine expressed in Quran; in it God says “I created the world because I loved to be known.” So the desire for self-expression in all of us, which we may condemn, is really imposed on us from above; we love to express ourselves because we our created in the image of He who desired to express Himself. This desire is behind all art, science, knowledge, etc. For instance, we have the heritage of Shankara in India because Shankara as a man with strong intellectual ambition. We can call it his egotism but no doubt it was a very good thing.
      So being driven by ego, however a sound ego, is not itself egotism. It is really the nature of thing and arises out of our own nature, for we are Brahman and it is in our nature to constantly express. So we are not so much obsessed with the ego but with our own egotism, and this obsession is itself egotism. If the ego likes to express, and if it delights in being admired and doesn’t like being criticized, it is because the ego wants to be good, to be perfect, and there is absolutely nothing wrong in it but everything right about it, for this drive or inclination of the ego is the reflection of the nature of brahman in our consciousness. When we zoom in on our own ego and its egotism we are being more selfish, more self-absorbed, than just riding the ego around and doing what needs to be done. And as you said, when we are immersed in action, whether this action is a spiritual duty or ego’s production, we are less egotistic. So the main egotism is our obsession with our own egotism.
      Ego is a necessary component of the game. If it wasn’t it would not be projected in us through Brahman. It is only when we misunderstand the ego that problems arise. So ego should neither be given free reign, nor should be under microscope; it should simply be understood as a means, an instrument, probably a hover-board, by which we maneuver through this game called existence or world. We are ourselves expressions of the Supreme Ego; so why not act in his image and just be fine with ego. The main point in all things spiritual is detachment. Nothing is by itself right or wrong, and every object of this world can at once be a trap for the fool and the means of realization for the wise. It is when we look at ego as enemy that problems arise. The tendencies in the ego should be there.
      For example, when you mention your ego in expressing yourself or having high opinions, try to look at the other side of it. Doesn’t this so-called egotism the very reason you read on the subject, you write, and reflect on these issues, form opinions, etc. This same ego is also pushing you in this field of knowledge. You consider yourself knowledgeable, but at the same time you are really after knowledge. It is different for someone to have the desire to express without actually reflecting or assimilating; but that’s not the case with you. Your ego may force you to think you are in possession of truth, but in doing so the ego has pushed you through books, to my blog (which is in an honor for my ego :)), etc. Isn’t that a good thing?! If this ambition wasn’t in ego none of us would evolve in our spiritual journey. This Ramamkirshna called the “ego of knowledge.” Ego is a friend if we understand it, but if we don’t understand it it may appear to act as foe.
      When you hear someone admiring you and your pleased with it, this pleasure is itself nothing but Brahman. When you turn against that pleasure and want the ego not to be pleased in the face of admiration, then you’re being egotistic, simply because you’ve zoomed on the ego.
      And a more interesting feature of ego is that ego only perceived ego, and is only perceived by ego. That is, when we see egotism in ourselves or others, it is the ego in us that sees that. Only ego sees other egos. From a point of view of a realized person, there is no such thing as egotism, even in admiration, etc. because viewing things from the eye of Atman, everything is Brahman; there is no such distinction as ego or non-ego.
      So we gotta let ego do what ego does, but in order to not fall into attachment we simply concentrate on the Atman instead of concentrating on the ego. Instead of zooming on ego all the time, we zoom on Atman and let the go do its job. If we keep that concentration, then it is becomes impossible for us to be obsessed with ego and become egotistic.
      But if let the ego do as it does, and we don’t concentrate on Atman, i.e. remembrance of truth, then our consciousness become preoccupied with ego and leads to egotism. The result of similar to the American west in which the ego has done many good accomplishments but since it is not anchored in truth people are attached to and identified with it; hence the western arrogance.
      I would go for the vision of Swami Vivekananda which tried to present a new but correct model of spirituality by taking the ambition of the west and combining it with the wisdom of the east. So that while we are established in truth we also fully participate in the world without condemning it.
      Imagine you’re in the middle of a dream and suddenly realize you’re dreaming, without waking up. So you realize the dream-world isn’t real. Now, would a sound person decide to wake up because of its unreality, or would he instead fully participate in it and enjoy it even more so because he’s not afraid anymore?! I think the second. Why not embrace all aspects of creation, since all is Brahman, and enjoy surfing through pain and pleasure, etc. knowing that we are ultimately unattached.
      The greatest egotism is obsession with once egotism. Concentrating on truth, Brahman, god, etc. will naturally and by itself keep us detached from ego without making us obsessed with its natural functions.
      This is all only my perspective. Maybe my ego caused me create this blog; maybe your ego pushed you here; but either way, our egos came together in search for knowledge. We came together reflecting on truth and sharing genuine insights. Now let this ego occasionally take delight in being admired; if it wants to express, then it has something to say, and in saying so maybe one person is saved. And above all know that ego’s desire to express is nothing but Brahman’s desire for saying “I” and projecting the world.
      All this being said, from the point of view of Brahman there is no such thing as us or creation. Us and creation IS Brahman. Everything is fine at all time.

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  3. Tomaj, thanks again for this very thoughtful and detailed response. This line is an eye opener especially:

    ” it is because the ego wants to be good, to be perfect, and there is absolutely nothing wrong in it but everything right about it, for this drive or inclination of the ego is the reflection of the nature of brahman in our consciousness”

    And I realise it is very true that “the main egotism is our obsession with our own egotism” and the presence of ego by itself is not wrong or right..

    What bugs me is that in most of the cases this obsession with egotism shrouds an individual itself from the absolute truth, or worse they delude themselves into an untruth with absolute conviction.They base their expressions and self-identity based on this and when presented with the truth, the immediate response is usually defense of their pseudo-perception(or rather, the obsession of their self-ego in act ) by denying it and not being open to it, let alone embrace it. Contemplation comes in only unless and until they are compelled by situations, but in the absence of it, they remain forever ignorant shrouded in their self-egotism.

    I would, any day, admire a person who dies in wonder of the cosmos, rather than someone who hold on to their half baked perceptions firmly to themselves till the end. Eventually, I find this unfortunate..

    Hence the comment 🙂

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    1. I am in total agreement. It makes more sense to be agnostic and seek truth than be blind atheist and deny it outright.
      Ego in general is destructive when it is exclusive but it becomes a good boy when it is inclusive in the sense that it doesn’t exclude other egos, whether in actions or conviction. And it is a logical consequence of nonduality or knowledge of the Self that there are no two; there is only one. So there is really one ego, i.e. transcendental ego, so all egos are the many faces of one and the same ego. As I mentioned earlier ego should not be suppressed; it should be understood as it is.
      I think in every aspect of life if we keep in mind that “there is only one” whether this comes through direct experience or conviction, then a lot of our problems dissolve, for problem and suffering come as a result of ignorance. They are removed by knowledge, of course not knowledge of physics, books, etc. but knowledge of the Self which is accessible to all at all times.

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