Is Mind the Ego in Disguise?

Flickr-eye-visualpanicLinda George, Contributor
Waking Times

In my last post I looked at how the ego is an aspect of our totality that defines and distinguishes us as separate individuals. The ego, in astrology, is symbolized in the Sun. We say the Sun is our ‘individuality’, our ‘essence’ – the fuel that drives us. We must ‘feed our Sun’ if we want to live lives of passion and purpose.   We are here to create, and to create, we need to unearth our self-expression. The ego is the energy that drives this mission, to express our uniqueness, to create – something  in the world. Whether we are creating a family and a home, or producing great works of art or literature is irrelevant. The infinite doesn’t care what we are creating – only that we do.

But this is just one way of defining the ego. While I have been influenced by astrology, I am aware that there are other schools of thought regarding the ego. One is that the ego is the mind in disguise – and the mind is not our friend. Does that sound surprising? We might think that our mind makes us who we are, and that we are conscious (as in self-conscious) beings, because of our thoughts. But this may not be the case. Our thoughts are different from our ideas – which come as new, and often creative bursts of consciousness. Thoughts on the other hand are those old tapes that endlessly play, in the form of mental chatter. This is the actually the mind. And you might agree with me when I make the suggestion that most of the time, this mind is not our friend.  In fact, life can feel like a constant internal battle – us, versus ourselves. That is, our conscious self, versus our sub-conscious self. The mind and thoughts are the domain of the subconscious. Our creativity (ideas) comes from the higher mind, or conscious (self-conscious) awareness.  The subconscious relates (in part) to the reptilian brain, and this has been referred to as birthplace of the ego. Our higher consciousness, on the other hand, relates to the prefrontal cortex – a more recent development in the story of human evolution.

How then, do we reconcile these two streams of thought?  How can the ego be in two places at once?  Is it the guardian and driver of our creative individuality, or is it the voice of the lower mind, the subconscious tape player – constantly undermining us with its theme of fear?  That the ego trades in fear is not hard to see. Fear of not surviving is a powerful force and one that is hardwired into us – we come into the world well equipped to protect ourselves physically. Later we use fear, or it uses us, to protect ourselves emotionally as well. It is the ego that makes us compete with others, and to fight, if need be, for our survival.  It is the ego that prizes life so highly, that we go to great lengths to avoid death. Death is the ego’s oldest adversary and as long as we fear death, believing life and the preservation of it to be paramount, we are living in the ego’s world.

They say the great truths in life are always paradoxical.  The ego, when we look at it from these two quite distinct angles,  is paradoxical.  Here is my attempt at reconciliation…

We live in a system where duality rules. For everything there is an opposite. It is just how things are in this virtual reality. It is part of the rule-set here. As such, we have a this/or that mentality. Things have to be one thing or the other, conscious-subconscious, inside-outside, heart-mind – which is why we find paradoxes so disconcerting. In the case of the ego, there is a blurring of boundaries. This or that becomes this and that. We can look at it in this way: the ego is an energy field (as all things are) whose job is to fuel our growth and evolution.   The ego itself is evolving – in and through us, just as we are evolving in and through the larger consciousness system.  Early on in our evolutionary story the energy of the ego – housed (for want of a better word) in the reptilian brain, helps us ‘stay alive’. Later, when we’ve been around the wheel a few times, we move out of survival mode into creative mode. Ego energy now not only helps us stay alive, it helps us define our individuality and motivates us to express it in the world.  It encompasses (survival) and transcends it (creativity). All evolution works this way: encompass and transcend.

As we grow our consciousness, we come to understand that we are not separate at all. We are part of the collective body called humanity – and, vitally, we are infinite, immortal aspects of a higher consciousness system. As such, the old fight to preserve our individuality, and indeed our lives themselves, dissipates.  It is replaced with a desire to create connections with others, and to strengthen the bonds that link us one to the other. At the same time, we see that our individuality is our gift to the collective. It is one of the reasons we are here.  Our ego is then employed in the task of uncovering our uniqueness, finding and expressing who we really are. The wisdom teachings and spiritual literature talks of ‘relinquishing the ego’. I see this as a relinquishing of the mind – or, more specifically, the thoughts that come from the subconscious mind.  This mind (as distinct from the higher consciousness mind) is a remnant of the primitive ego, whose job was to keep us alive. The old tapes are still playing because the subconscious does not distinguish between the past and the future. It operates in the now – playing scripts from past lives and from redundant episodes in this one, as if they were still relevant. Our task is to let go of this mind, drop the thoughts and channel the ego’s energy into conscious creative self-expression and connection with other life forms – nature, animals, people.  We are here to create and to grow and evolve our consciousness and our ego, friend, foe, either, or, both,  is part of the package.   It’s all just a ride we are on – a cosmic ride. Well-seasoned egos, evolved egos are able to see ‘reality’ for the illusion it is, and to laugh at the seriousness with which we  take ourselves and our lives. Don’t worry if you are not there yet, if life still feels scary and fear of not surviving looms too large. Rather, accept and allow yourself to be exactly where you are. Little by little, the bigger picture will make itself known and you will move out of survival consciousness. Your ego, have faith, is a work in progress. Decide to stop listening to the mind and its thoughts. Stand aside in your awareness and watch the game your ego is playing. See if you can smile at it. And above all, every day, remember to enjoy the ride!

About the Author

Linda George is a writer, yogi, and evolutionary astrologer living in New Zealand.  She has been deeply involved in astrology, alternative health, spirituality and metaphysics for 35 years.  Author of two books on consciousness and astrology – both finalists in the Ashton Wylie Mind/Body/Spirit book awards, she is committed to joining with others in ‘spreading the word’ in these waking times. Please join us.   Her blog

Read other articles from Linda George, here.

This article is offered under Creative Commons license. It’s okay to republish it anywhere as long as attribution bio is included and all links remain intact.

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  • Vivek narain

    Mind metamorphs into attitude wheras ego is generally translated as megalomania which being unsustainable is usually manifeseted as wicked affectation.

  • Vivek narain

    The article has got muddled by too much vivisection,i suggest we pay heed to what wolf larsen says about living,he is backed by very eminent jack london.

  • Robert

    It was a good article but I just don’t agree with it. As you mention, the ego generally has two parts, one of which you say we should let go of. That part holds the trauma, anxiety, hate and other negative things, and all the illness from the body is gone when we dissolve it. I believe this state is called purity of mind. But once you get rid of the dark things, you still have what I call the good ego, and it will keep you distracted with happiness all the way to your death. It wants you to “creatively express” yourself so you live your life being a positive person, helping the world, evolving and doing this and that, but NOT attaining enlightenment. In order to do that, you would have to stop thinking, so that your good ego is also dissolved.

    As you make progress you become more genuinly good, finally reaching the same state as the Buddha, and the world isn’t perceived as a “cosmic ride,” (because that’s how the good ego see’s it) but rather a place of suffering and bondage where selfishness is the ruler. And although you are at pefect peace, joy, and bliss, you are also overwhelmed with the contradictions and filled with the “sadness of compassion, and the horror of the un-necessary pain,” as Nisargadatta wrote.

    So to conclude, both the good and bad sides of the ego are equilly evil and prevent you from having True Perception as the Buddha did.

    • Meter

      That’s an interesting perspective. Using your words, I would say that ‘good’ and ‘bad’ aspects of ego come and go, yet pure awareness always exists beneath it. We may tune to any aspect of consciousness, including that awareness.

      ‘Only ego attempts to dissolve ego.’

      It is not necessary for ego to be dissolved for pure awareness to be experienced. One must merely turn one’s attention from one to the other – change one’s perspective.

      It is also possible to experience both at once, engaging in ego consciousness while at the same time holding a part of one’s attention in pure awareness, as the observer of ego. In some cases, particularly when the ego is dysfunctional, this attention or ‘light’ will dissolve the ego.

  • Meter

    Also, the human body is basically a hologram. Pick the book The Holographic Universe by the late Michael Talbott for a fantastic and well-researched exploration of this.

  • Meter

    Just for another perspective, here is how I view this area…

    In my essence, I am soul. This is pure awareness, creator/perceiver of What Is. This awareness is unlimited and nonlocal. In its depths, it is one with all of Life, IS all of life everywhere.

    My soul encompasses and engenders energy systems. These are energetic bodies and mental patterns/sub-personalities, always changing and mixing with those from other souls. Some of the energetic bodies are incarnated (in shared time). My soul is living many lives, in past, present and future, all happening NOW from the perspective of the soul. (Time does not exist – it’s merely a way of looking at part of a whole.) Other lives are more like ‘dreams’, not physical incarnations.

    Associated with each energetic body are groups of mental patterns or sub-personalities. These are consciousnesses, mental habits, memories and thoughts. Little people, if you will, but sometimes simpler than that. They can be as subtle as a presence with a certain feeling, or can be a recuring and evolving set of thoughts and ideas which eventually attain a degree of self-consciousness. This mental energy is reflected in the associated energetic body as emotion.

    A given human being is not a single ‘person’, as Freudian psychology easily demonstrates. There are many fragments of mind, sub-personalities, which collectively form what we call the personality or self. Different aspects or sub-personalities take the helm at different times. Sub-personalities die or dissolve, combine with others, and new ones are effectively created (picture a lava lamp). The lightest parts of these sub-personalities survive death of the body, and some move into other incarnations. Likewise, the lighter or energetic part of the body survives human death. Through the soul, the sub-personalities may access the collective (the mind of God), of which they are a part, even as they are a part of the soul. Hence psychic phenomena, etc.

    Not all sub-personalities fear or run from death – that egoic pattern is actually primitive, based in fear. Sub-personalities may be ‘taught’ or patterned to understand that they are ephemeral. Just as a person can make peace with the idea of death or dissolution, so can sub-personalities live within the context that they have a certain role, a certain time, and then will change form. (Nothing ever really dies, it’s all transformation, and that can be joyful and fearless.)

    The human brain is a power transformer. Each human cell also contains a nucleus which is a mini-brain and transformer, so the human ‘mind’ is actually throughout the body. These transformers are the body’s connection points to the soul’s mental energy patterns, transforming the ‘lighter’ energy of the soul into the heaver, slower mental and physical behavior and matter of the body. The human brain does not ‘contain’ consciousness, or the mind, it more contains a neural map which reflects the energetic sub-personalities, and transforms the energy from one level to the other.

    That’s about the best I can do with the words we have to work with!

  • pat

    wait, i was taught that the sun is the SOUL energy–it is the RISING sign that represents the ego–the latter being the part whose job is to keep us planted in the physical. It makes a great first mate-but a lousy captain-and a ship cannot sail without BOTH in the physical/psychic planes of existence. I also learned that mind and the ego are connected thru the dark side of mind-the part that suggests the ego IS the soul-and this is fed by the prince of darkness Lucifer–who is the god of the astral plane but who CHOOSES to live on the mental realm…good at head games-and the way to circumvent that is to keep consciousness in the HEART brain…from whence issues wisdom–not just intelligence.

  • Vivek narain

    Hi linda, another station but same person same talk world is a small place. This word ego has connotations of larger than life a matter of,i should say i have no ego whatever,as such,unless you stretch the meaning to include posting a comment. That is one to which i cling with-on occasion-an almost psychotic firmness.ha ha i copied the language from saint yarn of l charteris.seriously, you are taxing the word to its embarassing alternate word could be attitude. So long

  • The ego and the mind are two separate forces. Unless an individual can learn to control the ego (what keeps us bound to physical earth) he/she can never know the mind (the metaphysical force) and the power it beholds.

    • Interesting. This (my article) was really suggesting just another way of looking at it. I think when it comes to the word ‘ego’ there can be confusion – as the word itself is often used to describe various things. Perhaps we need to remain open – and that’s the best we can do. My feeling is the mind IS linked to the ego (as I understand it) – rather than two separate forces as you suggest. But I could be wrong. Having said that, I do believe there is a ‘higher mind’ – and with consciousness, and greater awareness, we can learn to operate from this mind, rather than the ego-serving lower mind. So many words…

      • JasonBarrick

        Hi Linda
        I think you need to experience Zen.
        The mind is a useful tool for thinking and solving problems.
        The personality is nothing more than genes plus conditioning and memory. You are very correct in stating that the ego lives in total fear of non existence.
        However all theories are merely theories, more confusion..
        My master explained “if you didnt know it the day you were born it is merely a belief or concept you have heard or read, it is not the truth. The truth cannot be expressed by words, it cannot be known by the mind.
        From experience that happened to my body mind organism, one must die to the self psychologically to go beyond mind, to be completely in the moment. I no longer existed as a personality, there was no one to think or hold concepts or beliefs.
        Hence there is no truth which can be spoken, there is no one to be enlightened. Enlightenment cannot happen to you, the personality, the ego.
        Enlightenment is your natural state of being, thought process prevents this experience.
        What you are doing in your article is defining, explaining, having beliefs and finding reasons and justifications. Your belief in past lives , now did you know about past lives when you were born?, then drop such things as past life, reincarnation, it is a belief structure and a social control structure and it cannot be the truth.
        Love Jason
        P.S try reading J. Krishnamurti,

      • Martin

        Nice article, thanks Linda. The whole talk about the ego reminds me strongly of Eckhart Tolle. His book “The Power of Now” is phenonmenal, I totally recommend it 😀 ! One has to learn to let oneself be but also not to take oneself to seriously, respectively not to identify too much with ones ego or ego-created identity. It would hold you back otherwise. Hmm I’m sure John Lennon also knew about the ego pretty well, regarding his song “Let it be” :D, since the “troubles” or the conflict in ourselves as I’d call is created by the ego, which influences our thoughts first before anything else and so it’s playing the old record over and over again and stops us from evolving our iternal being. But yes in a dimension of duality it can also become your friend. The relationship with the ego is like having a relationship to another person. You make friends much easier if you are openminded, let them be themselves and yes…do not fight them 😉

        My current experience
        which is often merely being called “Martin”

      • nora

        Very interesting article. I have spent much time pondering brain/mind, ego/consciousness, and there seems to be many viewpoints on the subject. I feel that while the mind is what gives expression to our most creative ideas and deepest thoughts, the ego is what makes them uniquely ours. Our subconscious mind can also carry many negative feelings and emotions placed through direct experience or conditioning. The conscious mind, if it is “conscious”, can over-ride non-productive thought and emotions. Unfortunately, “ego” has come to have somewhat negative connotations as people think of “egotistical” or “self-centered” beings as lacking in empathy or concern for all except themselves. However, without the ego, there would be no self-realization or self-awareness. I’m not speaking of identity, but our conscious awareness of who and what we are in regards to God, each other, and our place in the universe. Our soul, if you will. I do think we must relinquish our ego to experience our collective consciousness. At the moment of “Christ consciousness” there is such a profound oneness with every living thing in the universe, the self just melts in the ecstasy of the vast energy of our universal consciousness. To me, this is the ultimate defining of our spirituality. The ego seems more like a vehicle which we may utilize to create not only our physical reality as relates to our physical body, but a path to the esoteric “I am”. Of course, in a duality such as we live in, many egos seem earthbound, tied to the material world. My own thought is ego, when suffused with the light, becomes service to others, rather than service to self and begins our journey to enlightenment. I think only the ego who is not in touch with the soul of an individual fears death. Once you realize your eternal soul, there is no fear of death since it doesn’t exist. Since we are each a unique individual being, even while being part of the whole, does our ego ever leave us completely, or does it somehow contribute to defining our individuality, even on a higher level? I don’t know. The important thing is, we are all on the right track. Eventually all is made clear.

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