Ego Death

I wrote the other day about the clarity and focus that attends simplifying the externals in favor of studying A Course in Miracles, practicing the lessons, and generally trying to “bring into application” (a phrase I picked up from Tara Singh) the ending of the separation from God. To my mind, it is an obviously helpful exercise. It is like clearing a room of clutter and polishing its windows. The light shines easier. It reaches us easier. Our awakening is hastened.

The other day I had a particularly interesting experience in this regard. It probably won’t devolve to words very well, but that’s my problem. Bear with me!

I ran into a friend and we chatted. This and that, nothing major. Then, he indicated that he wanted to share some significant medical news. He had visited his doctor the other day and some x-rays – directed at one issue – revealed a potentially catastrophic other issue.

I was shocked. I was empathetic. I was sincere. I moved closer, furrowed my brows, murmured encouragement. I’m not making fun of myself. If you were watching from a distance, I looked concerned and empathetic. I was the model of a good listener and friend. I thought that’s what I was.

But – and this is what was interesting – I was suddenly in that moment deeply aware of how that “good listener and friend” thing was just a front for the ego. It was a role, nothing more. Just beneath it, the ego was rubbing its hands with glee. It was delighted to hear bad news – delighted. It was starving for bad news, the closer to me – without actually affecting me – the better.

I’m not proud of that, but I don’t want to lie about it either. I experienced this in a very inchoate way. I felt as if there was this other self inside my body – or my mind maybe – that was primal, pre-language. It was powerful in a brutal and inelegant way.

I felt clearly what I have long written about without fully appreciating – the deep-rooted and vicious nature of the ego.

Its greed for disaster and catastrophe was so powerful. And it was in direct contrast to the smooth polished and socially-appropriate surface my body was presenting. I have never had such a clear experience of what the ego actually is and how it operates. For a moment, the level of appearance – the physical world – really did seem like nothing more than a movie, a projection on a screen.

Nor did it end there. As the friend’s story progressed, it turned out that he had dodged a bullet. The “problem” had actually self-corrected because he had a long history of exercise and right diet and meditation and homeopathic care. Suddenly it was a very different story.

Perhaps you know where this is going. On the surface I was delighted and amazed. How wonderful! A happy ending!

At the much more powerful and vibrant level of thought, tthe raw energy of ego – to which I was still attuned – wondered only what there was in that good story that it could take. Maybe become a vegetarian? Get a good chiropractor? Start running again?

In other words, as soon as it encountered good news all the ego wanted was to appropriate it for itself. Not share it – take it. It’s mine!

And then the moment passed. I settled back into the three-dimensional, this world-this body experience. Yet I remembered clearly those few minutes of what seemed like bifurcation. It put me in the mind of Robert Louis Stevenson’s excellent novella “The Strange Case of Doctor Jeckyll and Mr. Hyde.” Beneath the easy shiny palatable surface is a monster, and it is the monster that runs the show. It will not be denied.

That is the Stevenson version anyway. But from an ACIM perspective, it’s not so disturbing. It’s a horror story in a way, but it’s not the end of the story. I knew – intellectually, because it was not my direct experience – that there is something below or beyond the ego. Spatial references are actually misleading here. It’s hard to write about this stuff well. But that was – is – my faith. This brutal ego energy is real enough, but it’s not Truth. There’s another level.

I have resolved not to disregard this ego, not to play games with it and – importantly – not to confuse my sensual experience of the world with reality. I accept now the abstract nature of our existence. I wish to undo that monster – and know with complete confidence that this undoing is possible. In fact, it’s certain. Right now, I accomplish by seeing it at work. I look past the form of the world – the friends, the strangers, the “good” news or “bad” news – and try to be aware of the ego energy that makes it all up. Why do I do this? Not to wrestle the ego to the ground but rather to see it clearly and fully and without fear. I want to be aware of its every move. Because when I am, that’s when I can give it over to Jesus. That’s how I’m going to let it go – by knowing exactly what it is that I’m releasing my grip on.

And from there it is only a short step – a little lift from God – into the peace and joy that is my – and your – reality.

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