Every human mind that has been molded by a culture founded on a phonetic alphabet and literacy is constituted at its core by a basic fragmentation which reaches every aspect of one's life and being. In a society with a phonetic alphabet, writing and literacy -- one that of course must be (not accidentally) sedentary and civilized -- there is a basic split between an individual and his environment. One can extend this generalization to explain virtually all of the ubiquitous examples of existential, social and institutional fragmentation now plaguing modern human society. The fragile, fractured ego seeks true union and hardly ever finds it.
The ego can be thought of as consciousness reflecting back onto itself through the activity of the nervous system. This reflective, reflexive "loop" is the determinant of most human behavior. It behaves as a classical system, in that it is deterministic. The substrate for this process is the true self, which behaves as a quantum system, the ground of which is pure consciousness. The true self is not constrained by time and space and is thus immortal.
The "classical" ego-self is where, as Alan Watts so correctly stated, things "just sort of happen." Deterministic. Unfree will. The "quantum" pure-conscious self, however, consists of a wavefunction whose superposition represents a multiplicity of possibilities and thus, real choice. We are usually very much stuck in our ego-selves, but the conscious and willful reality is actually more fundamental. Free will may be found (somewhere), but definitely not in the ego-self, as sure as it is that things are otherwise.
Jung's mythic philosophy is, no doubt, very popular, but in perusing it I came across something a little rough: He calls the "small, brown-skinned savage" a "primitive" and "inferior" type of man, and concludes that he is "singularly incapable of moral judgment." Did Jung not realize that civilized man has carried out the most morally outrageous acts of any creature in the four billion year history of our planet? If his entire psychological theory of the shadow is based on such an elementary anthropological error, why am I asked to take him seriously in any area of his thought? I, for one, am not and have never been interested in heroic myth, and consider it to be a cultural rather than innate sort of phenomenon. I have never encountered anything in my collective unconscious, in myself, to incline me in the slightest way toward recognizing any validity to his mythic "archetypes." He plainly had no knowledge of even the most basic ideas in anthropology, and constructed his theories in a vertical (heroic) continuum, whilst not realizing that this was the cultural and psychological continuum in which he was raised -- not necessarily the one in which humanity exists naturally.
The human brain both generates and evaluates what it thinks, and therefore, can be very unreliable at times.
The individual self is not an objective phenomenon, but rather a mental concept like any other, and is thus, in terms of its self-representation, an illusion just as the mystics report. However, it sure feels like we are selves most of the time! And in the end, does a conscious process not involve, as a reference to what it is conscious of, some type of self? Is there a false self and a true self? Or just pure consciousness with no agency at all?
One of the most destructive memes, existentially and culturally, is the notion of the necessity of attainment: one must always strive for more -- more money, more stuff, more status, more progress, more "success," etc. If we never have enough, if we always must have more, we are doomed to be miserable and unfulfilled. This kind of meme leads to nothing but frustration, feelings of inferiority and destructiveness at multiple levels. To be content with what one has, and what one is, and what one does, is not compatible with the perpetual cultural drive to attain ever more. And so we see a people slowly devouring itself.
Sure, there is ego loss, and the awareness of the self as a physical system. But some people take things too far in the direction of denial of the self, and that's a mistake. The mechanistic ego-self is an illusion and a trap people fall into, but there is a very real self behind it that is not so illusory.
It's not that the ego doesn't exist -- merely that it is not the primary aspect of our being.
There's no one worse at analyzing oneself than oneself.
Your ego is not "you" -- but you're there.
To deny the ego, as some do, makes no sense -- it is in fact quite necessary for negotiating Earthly affairs. What is to be done is to put it in its proper perspective, i.e. as not the fundamental self of an individual. It is quite real, and for all practical purposes it is totally necessary for each person to behave on that level, at least to an appreciable extent.
The self may be an illusion, and it may at some key point fall away, but when it does a deeper, more fundamental and no less real self remains. This "true self" is the object.
Our identity as humans interacting on the physical plane seems to be something of a phantasm -- it is not especially fixed to anything. Most of the time, we "are ourselves," but things can become very fluid during certain chaotic periods, including psychoses for example. It seems there is really no objective essence to our ego-identity. But there is a more fundamental level, beyond or beneath the ego, on which we do seem to have some sort of anchor -- some kind of unchanging essence that affixes us to the cosmos. It is important to see and distinguish these levels to have any sense of perspective on the nature of identity.
"Ego" is the program for, and sense of, self for mammalian organisms negotiating terra firma. It is, ultimately, artificial.
My ego-self may be an illusion, but it's one I'll happily buy into.
Ego-loss involves experiencing existence purely as a physical process rather than as some identified thing. When you get all the way to Nirvana, a radical redefinition of self has taken place.
Our social selves are not our true selves, but rather an evolutionary mechanism to enable the species to survive through cooperation. Consequently, we are always, in a deep sense, very much alone as humans. The other to oneself is as the multiverse to the universe -- extant only across a virtually unbridgeable gap.
A person's personality can change, or can be changed, but it seems to be rare for a genuine transformation to take place.
The behavior that the human species has honed most skillfully and assiduously over the eons is the tendency toward marked self-delusion. It is the one thing we do the very best. Most thoughts and behaviors most humans exhibit, most of the time, are tied directly or indirectly to this phenomenon.
Most of the time people who promote various causes attach themselves to an issue because it makes them feel important, satisfies their ego. Whether or not their claims or general ideas are at all true is irrelevant.
The focused, loving attention we lavish on our infants and children is, ultimately, not very good for them. It creates dependent, egotistical shitheads later in life. We perpetually strive to get back to that place of warmth and union, and we never find it. Ironic.
Civilization causes a pronounced exaggeration of the ego, due to various factors including narrow birth spacing and its concomitant early weaning, which leads to a damaged psychology always longing for more than it has; a more acute focus on the infant than it would otherwise have in an evolutionary setting; the belief in the apotheosis of man in his sedentary setting and the general anthropocentrism that is implicitly or explicitly at the center of all of our dominant ideologies; and the synergy and mutual reinforcement of all of these factors.
Civilization drives the ego and the ego drives civilization.
I have grown very tired of all this self-congratulation that comes from paradigm addiction and patriotism. People attach themselves to an issue or a cause or a group or an ideology and feel important and powerful because of it.
I think the ego is directly controlled by the subconscious, and that the fundamental layer of the subconscious is an infinite consciousness, which is in a way a sort of higher power. It is definitely a higher dimension. And I feel that it goes higher than that.
I am as much my brain as I am the muscles in my face. Our true selves are ethereal, and we exist in this realm in a physical shell.