Overcoming the Ego of the Worker and the Dangers of the Egoism of the Instrument

As the transition from the standpoint of the ego-personality to the divine standpoint is a process and takes time, there are several stages along the way. We start with the egoism of being the “doer”, the worker, deciding and acting upon our decisions. Sri Aurobindo addresses the antidote to this state of awareness: “The first attitude to be taken is to cease to regard ourselves as the worker and firmly to realise that we are only one instrument of the cosmic Force. At first it is not the one Force but many cosmic forces that seem to move us; but these may be turned into feeders of the ego and this vision liberates the mind but not the rest of the nature.”

We become the witness and observe that forces larger than ourselves drive us one way and then another, influence our patterns of thought and action. We differentiate these different forces and see them battling for supremacy and control of our actions and reactions. This standpoint however can free us from the belief in ourselves as the worker or doer of the action.

“Even when we become aware of all as the working of one cosmic Force and of the Divine behind it, that too need not liberate. If the egoism of the worker disappears, the egoism of the instrument may replace it or else prolong it in a disguise.” There is of course a danger here in that the individual who feels that he is the instrument of divine action may actually react with a greatly inflated egoism. “A man becomes a leader of men or eminent in a large or lesser circle and feels himself full of a power that he knows to be beyond his own ego-Force; he may be aware of a Fate acting through him or a Will mysterious and unfathomable or a Light within of great brilliance. There are extraordinary results of his thoughts, his actions or his creative genius. He effects some tremendous destruction that clears the path for humanity or some great construction that becomes its momentary resting-place….Men who have this destiny and these powers come easily to believe and declare themselves to be mere instruments in the hand of God or of Fate: but even in the declaration we can see that there can intrude or take refuge an intenser and more exaggerated egoism than ordinary men have the courage to assert or the strength to house within them. And often if men speak of God, it is to erect an image of him which is really nothing but a huge shadow of themselves or their own nature, a sustaining Deific Essence of their own type of will and thought and quality and force. This magnified image of their ego is the Master whom they serve.”

Thus, even while freeing oneself from the egoism of the worker, the true liberation is not yet fully realised. The seeker must still face and overcome the egoism of the instrument. “An intellectual perception or vital sense of a Force greater than ours and of ourselves as moved by it is not sufficient to liberate from the ego.”

Sri Aurobindo, The Synthesis of Yoga, Part One: The Yoga of Divine Works, Chapter 11, The Master of the Work, pp. 236-237

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