Inner  Frontier
Fourth Way Spiritual Practice


Inner Work

For the week of June 29, 2020

Transcending Ego and Finding Strength

(Serving Our World Soul: 6)

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In the prior installment of this series, we worked with concentrating the conscious energy, with the intention of raising the level of consciousness everywhere on the Earth. Further stages of service through inner work entail engagement with even higher energies. The doorway, though, to the higher energies requires us to leave our ego behind.

Ego is the false belief that our personality has a self behind it, a self that is who we are, a self that is separate from everyone else. This deeply ingrained attitude manifests in our childhood and grows thereafter, as an unquestioned and fundamental assumption. Everyone around us shares the same belief in their own personality, which reinforces our ego. It reaches a point where we cannot imagine what or who we would be without our ego. We build our life around that and do not recognize, much less entertain, that there could be a falsehood at our very core. That the person we think we are does not actually exist is unimaginable. Yet it is true. Ego is not a thing and not who we are. It is an ongoing aberration of will.

Our personality includes everything we have ever learned, all our education, all our skills, all our conditioning. It includes our thought patterns, our emotional patterns, and our attitudes. It is reasonable to believe that this complex personality belongs to someone, belongs to me in fact. It is reasonable to believe that this personality speaks and thinks for me. But that me is my ego, and its effects are not reasonable.

Becoming free of ego matters in terms of who we are and what we act on. As long as we believe in our ego, in our emotional reactions, in our automatic thoughts, our inner criticisms of ourselves or others, our disparaging rejection of ourselves or others, our self-pity and vanity, our arrogance and jealousy, our wanting this and then that, our demands and impatience, our taking more than we need, our non-existential fears, and all the benighted rest, then that is who we are and it drives our inner and outer actions.

The fact that our thoughts and emotions loudly and often refer to our ego as "I, I, I, me, me, me" does not mean that the ego actually exists. If we look behind the curtain, there is no one there. And it is not that hard to look behind the curtain. What we need to do is to go into the cognitive space surrounding our thoughts. That is the place behind the illusory curtain of our illusory ego. These thoughts of "I" and "me" seem to refer to a real entity, to our ego, but when we look, we see that there is nothing behind the "I" and the "me," there is nothing that they refer to.

Despite their long-standing place in our mental patterns, once we see our self-oriented thoughts as just thoughts, as mere sounds in our mind that pretend to have a real meaning but do not, we start to be free of our ego-centric views. We start to see that our thoughts and emotional patterns create the illusion of an ego by referring to that ego, by referring to I and me. But a pointer is not the reality it points to. And in the case of ego, the pointer is lying. We start to see that there is nothing more to ego than the thoughts and emotional patterns themselves. Gradually we believe them and believe in them less and less, which gives us more and more freedom, lifting the burden of feeding, defending, and soothing a self that never did exist.

As we become conscious of this travesty at what we thought was our core, we believe in our ego less and less until the day comes when we never believe in it again. That is a liberation, described in Buddhism as putting down the burden of self. A huge relief. Nevertheless, even after that liberation, the self-centered thoughts and emotional patterns of ego persist. But they no longer fool us into believing that is who we are, or that they refer to a real me that is separate from everyone else. This is the purification of our will. In place of our former ego, we open to and live from presence and conscience, our real I. The egoistic thoughts and emotions still intrude, but we see them for the intruders that they are. Because we no longer buy into them, these old habits of mind gradually weaken.

When we find freedom from egoism, our personality and all its conditioning become our instrument, our tool, as they should be. The self-centered patterns no longer rule us. The conditioning is still there, but it can no longer believably claim to be who we are. It can no longer claim to speak for us and have us trust it. It can longer pretend to think or speak as us and have us buy into it. The flow of choice no longer begins in our personality, in our ego. It begins in us, in our real I, in our presence, informed by our conscience and by love. We use our personality instead of it using us.

To have any hope of transmitting and transforming the higher spiritual energies, with the intention of making a difference at a global scale, requires us to have great inner strength,[1] in addition to purity of will. Our presence, anchored by our real I, grows stronger the more we practice being present. This holds especially true of maintaining our presence in the face of difficulties, not allowing ourselves to fall prey to old reactive patterns of thought and emotion. This is not to say that fear and anger are not necessary. They are necessary when they are necessary, but those circumstances are rare for most of us. We know those situations when we see them. For the rest, we absorb our destructive emotional reactions into the clarity of presence. We no longer waste ourselves on the bottomless drain of our ego, an imaginary labyrinth with no center and no exit except by rising above it.

If we need to be strong in our soul, the irony is that a person with a big ego can appear to be strong. Such people can seem self-assured, charismatic, forceful, and domineering, a veritable tower of strength. But … that tower is built on sand. Though it may be outwardly formidable, every ego is insubstantial within, an empty shell, lacking any reality. All hat and no cattle. Mere bluster, surrounding fear of exposure.

True inner strength is a very different matter. It does not need to establish or maintain appearances. It does not need praise. Its primary interest is not itself, but others, not what it can get, but what it can give. It can start something and see it through to completion. It can see, admit, and learn from its mistakes. It can bend without breaking. It can learn from others. It can accept others just as they are.

Indeed, each time we truly accept another person as they are, especially when they are imposing on us or acting in some other way that we find unpleasant, we weaken the grip that ego has on us. Each time we disavow our inner criticism of another person, we weaken the grip that ego has on us. Each time we see the emptiness at our core, the insubstantiality of the thought "I," we weaken the grip that ego has on us.

Ego means fragmentation. The belief in our ego allows every passing opinion, whim and desire arising in our personality to take the center stage of our being and claim authority. The less we are subject to our ego, the more we can open to our own personal unity.

Ego means separateness. The belief in our ego builds a wall between us and everyone else. The less we are subject to our ego, the more we can open to our inherent connection with other people. Inner work that helps weaken egoism, allows us to adopt an inner and outer stance aligned with cooperation toward the common good, with less self-centeredness and more compassion shaping our attitudes.

Transcending ego by seeing the lie that it is, enables us to transcend our fragmentation and separateness. This unlocks the door to the higher spiritual realms. True strength flows through the place previously occupied by our ego.

For this week, please take more note of your own egoistic, self-centered attitudes and actions, both inner and outer. Is there any reality to their source?

See Also: Illusion of Ego

[1]: "The transmission of the highest cosmic energies requires more than a sensitive mind. It needs souls strong enough …"  J.G. Bennett; The Dramatic Universe, Volume 4: History, page 417.


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