Is the ego, as far as you are concerned, a totally empty concept? - Francis Answers - 116

Francis Lucille

Location: Toronto, Canada

  1. Dear Mr. Lucille, An admirer of your doctrine and method has told me that you deny that there is such a thing as the ego at any level of reality, be it at the level of the Absolute or the Self, or that of relativity and contingency. And he makes a distinction between his relative existence as a human being, which – true enough - has its ultimate reality in the Self, and that of the ego which, he claims, has no such claim to reality at all. What is more, he claims that the ego is a completely empty, psychological concept, a figment, so to speak, of the imagination. And yet, when I asked him, what is meant by your injunction: “Surrender!” or what, in other words, he thinks he is asked to surrender, he says that it is surrender “From the constricting view of the suffering individual, with all its wants, fears and struggles…” Now, I do accept that these wants, fears, and struggles” result from a separatist, hence false view, of reality. But what is it that suffers (rightly or wrongly) from these things and, I will add, from insult, humiliation, and the like, if not the individual subjectivity, which is “mind” and ego. Psychologically, we conceptualize as ego that which is ambitious, etc. and suffers insults and humiliations. We know the ego, not because we can measure it, weigh it, or touch it, but by its effects. And where there are effects, there are causes. All of which is, of course unreal from the point of view of the Self, but it is relatively real within the homogenious dream which this world is (not the dream, of course, of any human individual) and in which we are submersed. What is more, everything in this world has its prototype in the Self. And if the human being is a reflection of the Self ( capital “S”), his subjectivity, or self (lower case “s”), is necessarily a distant reflection of the subjectivity or the Consciousness of the Self. Not only is the ego not an empty psychological concept, as this admirer of your approach claims it is, for there is no such thing as effects without causes, but it has its metaphysical foundation, as I mentioned above, in the correspondence between the micro, and the macrocosm. That it should not be stessed at all, methodologicaly, is quite a different thing, and it goes without saying. What this man seems to confuse, is his “mind” with that of the Consciuosness of The Self. He seems to think that knowing in his brain that he is “That ,“ that thereby he is It. As to his ego, he doesn’t even confuse his individualized consciousness, or ego, with that of the subjectivity of the Self; he simply denies that there is such a thing as ego, even within the cosmic dream. And so he tells me: “I exist, but not as a psychological construct, a mere concept, a non-entity, which is what the so-called ego is .” And again: “I have been experiencing physical pain recently, but not psychological pain whatsoever. True, if one identifies himself with, or as, a separate individual mind.” That the ego or individual subjectivity has exactley the same degree of reality as his “mind” and that the two, mind and ego, are dimensions of the same relativized consciousness, he refuses to accept because, he claims, that Advaita Vedanta says so. To prove it, he emailed me the following, among other things: “We want to play God, to tell God what to do and how to make the perfect universe. We would like no mosquitoes, no death, no flu, no cancer, no autumn, no seasons, and no bugs. We want everything in the right place. By thinking in this way, we are forgetting the perfection that is evident from moment to moment. We are living in the past, in the future, in thinking. The now is always free from suffering, problems and separation. It is always free from ego. In the now there is no ego. The ego cannot live in the now.” “If we think there is a problem with the world, we have a problem! We are not the problem, we are freedom. The world appears in accordance with our views. It is for this reason that keeping our mind on the problem only perpetuates it. You have to de-hypnotize yourself from the problem, which is the object, and to turn towards the Self. The Self will deal with the problem in an appropriate way.Surrender to the Self.” Francis Lucille I wholeheartedly accept the above as truth in itself and as a way of leading individual consciousness from the outward to the inward, and if “there is no ego in the now “ this is so precisely because the ego has surrendered to the now, and in so doing has been absorbed into its transcendent root. But it requires surrender, and not as this man thinks: imagining, in his “mind,” that he has no ego. This is all I have to say about it, for the time being. I look forward to your response. Yours sincerrely, William

  2. Question: I understand that all spiritual paths have this in common, and in this order: Purgation, Illumination, Union. There is, in other words, no such thing as ilumination without prior purgation. In your introduction to your Way you state: “Ramana Maharshi used the self inquiry method with his less advanced disciples. The student who practices selfinquiry keeps his attention focused onto the source of the I-thoughts and feelings, whenever they arise.” And this, I take it, is also the method you follow. Now, you are teaching in the West, to Westeners, and westernized students. No doubt, therefore, that you be familiar with the Western concept of the ‘ego.’ If so, would you not admit that the ‘I-thoughts’ and the ‘I-feeelings’ of Ramana Maharshi’s self-inquiry method are in many ways expressions of ‘ego,’ and as such require purgation? Can one deny any kind of existrence to the human ego? After all the subjectivity of the individual, his self or ‘I’ is, and necessarily can be nothing else, than a reflection, or drop of the ocean, of the supreme Subjectivity, the Self or the only ‘I’ that ultimately is. Since you are concerned with self-inquiry, with ‘I-thoughts’ and ‘I-feelings’ at the beginning of the Way, you obviously attribute some kind of reality to this world including the human ’ego, whether you conceptualize the latter, as Westerners do, or not. Tell me then, in no uncertain terms, and quite apart from what may or may not be fruitful in your method: “Is the ego, as far as you are concerned, a totally empty concept, having no reality whatsoever and, therefore, has no role to play at the initial stages of your Way? I look forward to your answer. William

Dear William,

Let us start from scratch, forgetting everything you and I know about the spiritual path to liberate a space in which a mutual understanding can blossom. Misunderstanding is often a result of different meanings being attributed to the words used to communicate. I find the use of the word ego confusing, for it can have multiple meanings:

  1. Consciousness, that, whatever that is, which is truly perceiving these words right now.

  2. The personal memories, skills, qualities, behavioral patterns that seem to be proper to and emanate from a specific human body. This is the meaning I will exclusively use in this answer.

  3. The cause of psychological suffering, which I call “ignorance”. Ignorance is the identification of consciousness, as defined in 1., with the body and the ego as defined in 2. A “way” is a path that leads to the disappearance of ignorance.

You asked:

“Is the ego, as far as you are concerned, a totally empty concept, having no reality whatsoever and, therefore, has no role to play at the initial stages of your Way?”

The answer to your question varies depending on which of the meanings 1, 2, 3 we attribute to the word “ego”:

Meaning 1: Consciousness is not an empty concept, it is the absolute reality of ourselves and of the world, and it is the sole real agent at all the stages of the way.

Meaning 2: The ego is not an empty concept, and plays a role at the initial stage of the way, as a tool created and used by the absolute reality.

Meaning 3: Ignorance is a belief that is totally devoid of supporting evidence. The only role it plays on the way is to get out of the way.

Warmest regards,