Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Some Lingo...Our Ego Doesn't Want To Read This.


"Under this thin veneer of modesty lies a monster of greed. I drive away faint praise, beating my little chest, waiting to be named Sun God, King of America, Idol of Millions. I don't want to say 'Thanks, glad you liked it.' I want to say 'Rise, my people.'" Iconic storyteller: Garrison Keillor, Time Magazine, thanks Kelly Cat!

Oprah's latest book club selection is A New Earth and it discusses the forces of "ego" and the effort for a spiritual life to be focused in the "here now" Tweetey at her blog is reading and writing about her response to Tolle's book. I thought it might be interesting to see what eastern philosophy and meditation practitioners mean by ego as opposed tot he scientific and psychological definitions.

Ego as Freud discussed was his translation from Latin ego="I myself" and German "the I". The function of the ego was with individual's safety and allows some of ones desires to be expressed. In order to providea each person with this self-organizing princple the ego has defense mechanisms: Denial, displacement, intellectualization, fantasy, compensation, projection, rationalization, reaction formation, regression, repression and sublimation were the defense mechanisms Freud identified.

According to both the psychological and spiritual definitions of "ego" it is these defense mechanisms that can make a person dysfunctional...

A simple psychological definition of the ego is something like the "self-organizing principle," that all-important command center in the psyche that coordinates the different aspects of the self. And that command center must be in good working order for a human being to be able to function in the world with any reasonable degree of competency. The ego as self-organizing principle is neither positive nor negative; its function is mechanistic, and in that, it has no self nature. from here

But there is another definition of ego, and the ego in that definition has self nature. The human face of that ego is pride; is arrogant self-importance; is narcissistic self-infatuation; is the need to see oneself as being separate at all times, in all places, through all circumstances—and that ego is the unrelenting enemy of all that is truly wholesome in the human experience. When this ego is unmasked, seen directly for what it is, finally unobscured by the other expressions of the personality, one finds oneself literally face-to-face with a demon—a demon that thrives on power, domination, control and separation, that cares only about itself and is willing to destroy anything and everything that is good and true in order to survive intact and always in control. continued...from here

A popular Jewish joke goes like this:


Chaim, a new student, arrived at the Novardok Yeshiva. Being a novice and not knowing exactly what was expected of him, he simply observed what the other students were doing and copied them. When it was time for davening, observing his fellow yeshiva students engaged in fervent prayer and shokeling back and forth with great intensity, he did the same. During the period for Talmud study, he mimicked the others with their sing-song chants and exaggerated hand gestures. Finally, it was time for mussar self-examination, when each student retreated to a private corner, beat his fist remorsefully against his chest and repeated the refrain in Yiddish: “Ish bin a gor nisht! Ish bin a gor nisht!” (“I am a complete nothing!”) Observing the behaviour of these students, Chaim sat down and, pounding his fist against his chest, likewise repeated the same mantra: “Ish bin a gor nisht! Ish bin a gor nisht!” One of the veteran students seated nearby observed Chaim disdainfully, turned to another old-timer and commented, “Look at this one! He’s been here just one day, and he already thinks he’s a gor nisht!”


The concept of bitul ha-yesh, literally the “negation of substance”, first appeared in certain schools of kabbalah and came to prominence with Rabbi Yisroel ben Eliezer, better known as the Baal Shem Tov, founder of the 18th century pietist Hasidic revival in Eastern Europe. The idea of “annihilating the ego” is well-known from different forms of Eastern mysticism as well as in Sufi and Christian mystical thought. It has resurfaced with contemporary spirituality, including the new pop kabbalah, so that once again many spiritual seekers are pre-occupied with this arduous task.

Phsychological notes on
  • Id,Ego & Super-Ego
    Paradox of trashing the ego

  • Excerpt from: A New Earth

    2 comments:

    Martha Elaine Belden said...

    very interesting thoughts. and i love the joke.

    interesting image choice, as well. lord of the rings is my favorite book of all time.

    Candy Minx said...

    Well, it's a terrific story Lord of the Rings...I believe Golem is much like the concept of "ego" he is a soul consumed by "ego"...isn't the joke lovely! So funny!