I am coming to see that until we each can find a way to vanquish our ego, achieving very much spiritual growth may be difficult or impossible for us. And our inability to grow spiritually would be calamitous for all the world! Growing spiritually is the reason why we even come to earth at all, so this may be the most important message that I ever will share with you.
For most of my life I thought my ego was me. I would be flooded often with fear and rage over trivial things that on a different day might not bother me so much; but I never for a moment in nearly six decades thought that being that way was a problem. Everyone I knew was plagued just as much by all the same petty fears and rages! So it must be normal, right? Then about thirteen years ago I joined an A Course in Miracles study group, and I pursued the Course for more than a year before I reached what my study group called “the extinction of the ego.”
As an aside, I should note that A Course in Miracles was channeled in the 1960s by a group that Jesus led, and effectively it is His Gospel teachings delivered at the Ph.D. level. My study group helped me fight what for all of us is an essential battle, and the death of whatever that nasty thing was has been such an amazing improvement in my life that I want now to share it with you! And in order to do that, I thought I should first do a bit of background research. What is the ego? Do we even need it? Might it be a part of our eternal minds?
What I have found has been just a mess of confusing interpretations of what the word “ego” means, and a hot insistence by various experts that either the ego is good or the ego is bad, or perhaps the ego simply is who you are. Sigmund Freud used the term in constructing his model of the human personality, and in my younger life we used to say that someone who had “a big ego” was too proud, and someone who needed “an ego boost” had been beaten down by life. The rather fanciful definition of the ego used in A Course in Miracles comes down to this: “The ego is idolatry; the sign of a limited and separated self, born in a body, doomed to suffer and to end its life in death. It is the ‘will’ that sees the Will of God as enemy, and takes a form in which it is denied.” (Do you see why you will need a study group?)
While the ACIM definition comes closest, no definition I have found can entirely match my understanding of the ego. Perhaps we have been using the word “ego” to cover a number of unrelated things? But in the area of achieving spiritual growth, the word “ego” has a specific meaning, and unless you learn how to spot your ego and eventually learn how to take it down, that pesky nonentity will forever keep you from becoming the perfect being based in love that you already are! So let’s begin by stating our best definition of the word “ego”:
“The ego is a limited and separated entity that pretends to be a part of yourself. It was born as an accessory to your body, and it will die when your body dies. The ego is a guardian of the body and of its own survival, focused on making you fear and fight every threat to itself that it perceives. To operate successfully, it tricks you into believing it is a part of your own mind. It is what you perceive as your personal ‘will,’ and it makes you distrust and fear God and also fear whatever might help you grow spiritually because your ego knows that your spiritual growth will eventually bring about the death of itself.”
That is a working definition for now, but as I read it again I think it works fairly well. And you can right away see our problem! The ego has priorities of its own that are contrary to the very reason why you chose to live a life on earth. It is your enemy, but it pretends to be a crucial part of who you are.
I have tried to understand why we even are born into a body that comes with an active ego, since we live much better lives without it! I can think of only two reasons why having an ego might be necessary, neither of which is relevant to our own lives now:
For whatever reasons the ego ever might have been of use to us, it is of no value to modern adults. Submitting to it after the age of three is like having a nuisance vestigial limb, or perhaps a very cranky appendix that repeatedly becomes enflamed. The extent to which your ego has plagued and diminished your life until now will not be apparent to you until you have managed to free yourself from it, but suffice it to say that its entire purpose has been to make you feel and act crazy. At least, that was all that mine did for me!
Then in one night a little over a decade ago my life was altogether transformed. I had begun via the Course to learn to love and forgive more perfectly, which apparently had threatened my ego sufficiently for it to do what I am told that everyone’s ego does when we begin to grow spiritually: it summoned up my deepest fear. That fear was of what we used to call “the second death,” where we become spiritually advanced enough to merge with God. My ego made me focus on and fear the horror of believing that my merging with God would be the extinction of my individual awareness. I cannot sufficiently express to you how scared I was. And it went on for weeks! Why try to grow spiritually, if all it will get you is an ultimate fall into black oblivion? After more than a month during which my study group supported me but I was in terror, I woke up one morning feeling calm. Then I heard the voice of my treasured spirit guide say, “You will never lose awareness. You will have God’s awareness.” And that was good enough for me! From that moment on, my ego was squashed and silent. I never again feared anything.
Being without a robust ego has felt so natural to me, so healthy and joyous, that it is only in the past few weeks as my guide has been nagging me to talk about the ego that I have come to see how important that fifteen months or so spent steeping myself in ACIM has been to my better living my life. It was only when my nuisance ego was gone that I began my closer walk with God and my deeper study of the teachings of Jesus, until ten years ago this coming April I felt moved to give my life to God. And that was when my deeper and richer life in Spirit really began!
My first Fun book came out a year later, and in 2016 the third in this series was The Fun of Growing Forever – We Can’t Transform the World Until We Transform Ourselves. It’s a book about using the Gospel teachings to help you to better grow spiritually, and I am realizing only now that those teachings likely worked so well for me precisely because I had already given my ego its big kick in the head. For a few days I was muddled by this, wondering whether my easy success in applying the Gospel teachings might have been just the result of my prior extinguishment of my ego. And that was an advantage you likely won’t have! So, was it the prior banishment of my ego that had made the Gospel teachings work? Had my book been steering you wrong?
I am just now realizing that my extinction-of-the-ego experience made it easier for me a few years later to use the Gospel teachings to elevate my spiritual vibration, but in fact it did no more than that. It was those precious Gospel teachings that did all my spiritual heavy lifting! My dear friend and primary guide now asks me to warn you that if your ego is robust, you are going to find it harder to grow spiritually because your early growth will make your ego feel the need to scare you half to death. But forewarned is forearmed. Here are three of the biggest fears that a desperate ego will inspire:
The only way to vanquish your ego is to stand strong in the face of all fear. If you will stare it down as I stared mine down, your ego soon will cease to be. Immerse yourself in eternal truth until that nasty gremlin shrivels and dies! All that exists is one perfect and all-powerful eternal God, and you in particular are God’s best-beloved child. As A Course in Miracles gently assures us, “Nothing real can be threatened. Nothing unreal exists. Herein lies the peace of God” (T-In.2:4).