The Dissolution of the Ego and the Action of the Individual Absent the Ego, Part 1

In one form or another, most of humanity believes that the ego-personality that we experience is a necessity for action in the world, and that the dissolution of the ego, whether through a spiritual experience of transcendence, a universalisation of the consciousness or an escape to a heavenly reward after departure from the world, is and must be associated with discontinuance of the action in the world.  The ego, and the motive force of desire, are seen as the lynch-pins of activity and without them, activity must fail.

The mental consciousness, with its “either/or” framework cannot readily conceive of a status that both affirms the impersonality of the universal and transcendent consciousness while simultaneously acknowledging a role for personal individuality and a personal action devoid of ego and desire.  Sri Aurobindo, looking at this from an integral perspective, finds that the apparent conflict and impossibility are related to the limitations of the mind and not to the actual state of affairs.  There are both an Impersonal and a Personal aspect. The Divine utilizes the Personal aspect as a means of creating unique perspective and interaction of forces and events to carry the intention of the manifestation forward in a complex, multifarious manner.

The review of the role of Personality, in the absence of the ego, is one that requires a multi-faceted review which will span a number of articles, this being the first.

Sri Aurobindo observes in The Life Divine:  “Ordinarily, in the common notion, the separative ego is our self and, if the ego has to disappear in a transcendental or universal Consciousness, personal life and action must cease; for, the individual disappearaing, there can only be an impersonal consciousness, a cosmic self: but if the individual is altogether extinguished, no further question of personality or responsibility or ethical perfection can arise.  According to another line of ideas the spiritual person remains, but liberated, purified, perfected in nature in a celestial existence.  But here we are still on earth, and yet it is supposed that the ego personality is extinguished and replaced by a universalised spiritual individual who is a centre and power of the transcendent Being.  It might be deducted that this gnostic or supramental individual is a self without personality, an impersonal Purusha.  There could be many gnostic individuals but there would be no personality, all would be the same in being and nature.”

Sri Aurobindo, The Future Evolution of Man, Chapter Eight, The Gnostic Being, pp. 112-113

1 thought on “The Dissolution of the Ego and the Action of the Individual Absent the Ego, Part 1

  1. Ego and personality are not synonymous and are not treated as synonymous by serious spiritual practitioners and psychoanalytical theorists. Nonetheless, some consider even “personality” a word to be avoided when referring to our senses of self and other emanations of Divine Spirit and — this — despite the word ending, “-ality,” which indicates a quality and a meaning very different from the “atomized self” of Postmodernism.

    God knows I’ve been chastised to hell and back for employing “personality” in what I consider an appropriate way as there are those who do not merely place emphasis on the “we” inside of us, but insist that “we” is all that exists and, so, is of any import; that so-called “individuals” are of no worth whatsoever, intrinsic or otherwise; that as “God is no respecter of persons” [Acts 10:34]*, “persons” are utterly dispensable — an idea I consider extremely dangerous. Why concern one’s self with the health and well-being of another when the “other” is essentially considered expendable — like a cog in a machine — especially in service to one’s “cause?”

    Dangerous, dangerous, dangerous.

    “Ego” is simply the Latin word for the grammatical “I”. It’s come to be considered synonymous with the sense of “me” only in the popular lexicon of the West through consistent misuse and abuse of 20th century psychoanalytical theory.

    Kazimierz Dąbrowski’s “Theory of Positive Disintegration” was recently brought into the public conversation in America by Elizabeth Mika. While she notes that “personality [is] a term Dabrowski reserved only for [a] highly developed level of functioning” — remarkably akin to the authentic self-realization Aurobindo writes of in these passages — I find Dabrowski’s original point ultimately obscured.

    It is seemingly hopeless misunderstandings and disagreements over meanings such as these that comprise much of the hurdle we must clear as a species to mature into and express our Divine birthright as “sons and daughters of God” and fully realize “the kingdom of God on Earth,” to borrow concepts from the Christian tradition into which I was personally born and raised.

    * PS The English word employed in the book of Acts is “persons” and indicative of the “sin” of favoritism among individuals and cultures, not person-alities. Would that it were translated as “egos.” Perhaps it would make more sense to the average Westerner.

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