by Bryan Rice August 2011
Eckhart Tolle was not the only one who had something to say about the nature of the ego, mistaken for the true “I”, or reality or misperception. Albert Einstein used the phrase Optical Illusion of Consciousness to discuss the very same topic examined by Tolle in Chapter 2 of “A New Earth”. The illusion Einstein spoke of in essence had to do with being mislead into misperceiving reality. “Nothing real can be threatened”, says A Course in Miracles. The ego, blurs reality for us and in the work of A Course in Miracles, the ego must be undone to remove the blocks to the reality of love.
So, in talking about the ego, the words delusion, illusion, inflation, and erroneous come up. But before going any further with the characteristics, I want to comment on what Tolle said beginning in Chapter 2.
“Words are a hypnotic spell,” he says. Just because we know a word, doesn’t mean we know what the word signifies. When dealing with words and mechanics of perception, Tolle used the image of seeing only the tip of the iceberg to understand how the ego radar works. He is very clear in “A New Earth” and even in “The Power of Now”, that humanity is possessed by thought. That obviously is not the optimum situation for us to be in. We have to sense “beingness” found in all things and in life circles. It is hard to see the real essence of things, when we are hypnotized by the sign posts, or the meaning to which words point.
I agree with Tolle, when he said that a great miracle needs to take place – we need to experience the true self before labels were either self-constructed by our mind or by the minds of others. These labels of the mind lead to disentanglement and we thereby sacrifice creativity, wisdom, joy, and love. Getting back to words, we are not only possessed by them, but we are imprisoned by them. The funny thing about words is that they are just basic sounds assigned a meaning by the mind. These basic sounds, Tolle says cannot explain our being.
The false sense of “I” is the greatest truth or error, as stated in the book. The very existence of the ego-illusory self is a primordial error in falsely identifying the “I”.
On a positive note, if you are able to recognize an illusion as illusion, it dissolves. That should be our goal in dealing with the false identities we construct for ourselves.
Returning to the idea of reality versus unreality, it is true that the ego’s survival depends on our mistaking IT for reality. For instance, when we say “I”, we are not referring to our true self in God or Being. To understand the workings of the ego, think of a baby. He or she equates “I” with their name, then the next step in ego development they look at things in terms of “me” or “mine”. The primitive ego, unaffected by advanced consciousness and awareness represents things as their self.
The mental construct of “I”, rather the egoic self ties into gender identity, identifying with possessions, it relates to a sense perceived body, it identifies with a certain race, and also a religion.
Transcending the mind is a big focus point for Eckhart Tolle. In more than one of his books, he refers to thought as compulsive, mostly repetitive, and pointless. Most people, he says, are spiritually unconscious, meaning that they have no sense of “I” apart from their thoughts.
The voice in a given individual’s head causes one to be absorbed in thoughts, unaware of their surroundings, thinking through the intellect that as an individual who thinks, we are alive and have meaning.
Tolle clearly states that we must shift from thinking to detached, observing awareness. But so many of us are content to let the mind possess us with unhappiness. Since thinking is only a small fraction of the consciousness that we are, we need to free ourselves from compulsive thought.
To summarize briefly, the crux of Tolle’s argument about how we must undo and understanding the structure and content of the ego, centers around moving beyond the structure of “my” in relation to things. He touches on the nature of the consumer society, advertising, and how it feeds the “hungry mind” and “greed” in people. He goes on to say that there is “an unchecked striving for more and more and more, for endless possessing – this being a dysfunction and disease. Tolle compared this dysfunction with the spreading and manifestation of cancer cells in a sick person.
Lack leads to wanting. People who’s ego feel diminished will become self-grasping. According to Tolle, when you know longer feel life within you, it is easy to look for something to “fill” you, from outside of you. Detectors for the ego are signs of anger and defensiveness that one might feel when they experience the loss of something they identified with.
Being is a favorite word of Tolle, and is a synonym for God or the I AM presence. He says being must be felt, not thought. The ego, by nature, cannot know being because it is thought.
The key is, with things, is to remain detached. But, the illusion of ownership creeps in with regularity in each of us, if we were honest about that fact. Reality says that no thing ever has anything to do with who we are. Unfortunately, it is not until being on the brink of death that we examine, and realize that our truest essence really in fact wanted to be identified with being. Blessed are the poor in spirit can mean not having any identification with things. No attachments. And no mental positions.
The start of transforming your consciousness happens when you are able to say to yourself that you are the awareness that is aware that there is an attachment (to be overcome).
Tolle spent a great deal of time in chapter 2 talking about “wanting” and the “need for more”. The ego, not the true self identifies itself with having. Voices and demons that are concealed within us remain deep-seated notions of dissatisfaction, of an incompleteness, of a feeling of “not enough”. The voices that drive the ego are : “I don’t have enough yet” and “I am not enough yet.”
In essence, having is a fiction that the ego creates to give it solidity and permanence, to make itself “stand out”, and be “special”.
Wanting gives the ego life juice. Pursuing in a manner spoken of by Tolle, in a grim and ruthless determination can lead to a person’s downfall and can create hell on earth for them and other people in their life. The real thing that the ego and people identified with the ego do not want is to encounter the present moment – the
power of “now”.
The sense of lack can thereby lead to destruction and continued unconscious choosing and behaving. “No content will ever satisfy you, as long as the egoic structure remains in place.”
The last section of Chapter 2 dealt with body and gender identification. I found it quite strikingly true, the observation Tolle made about people who are afflicted in some way. The voices “I’m sick, I’m a patient, I’m a sufferer” are one way people negatively identify with the egoic structure as well.
So, the incessant compulsive thought of the ego can turn reality into a nightmare. We must move bravely past identification with form, things, and especially our thinking and wanting. Basically, hunger of the mind can lead to insatiable hunger in the body. That can be tragic, for in the body is where Being and Presence are felt.