PB Class: the Ego, April 18, 1984


RC: Well we'll just pick up in the same notebook Tim was reading from last week.  (Q: Randy reading)


PB: ``The little ego is the only being he knows: the greater Being of philosophic Consciousness would be, and is, beyond his comprehension.''(8.1.25)


PB: ``The ego which gets a man into his troubles is unlikely to get him out of them--unless it reforms, learns, or lets some wisdom in.''(8.4.8)


(Q: student discussion 10-15 minutes)


(Q: Tim reading)


PB: ``The ego gets in its own way and shuts out the truth.  It is so immersed in itself that it sees nothing else than its own views, its own opinions.  And this is true even when it apparently undergoes a mental change or emotional conversion, for in the end _it is the ego itself _which sanctions the newly accepted idea or belief.''(8.4.90)


(Q: student discussion 10-12 minutes, first quote reread)


PB: ``The little ego is the only being he knows: the greater Being of philosophic Consciousness would be, and is, beyond his comprehension.''(8.1.25)


(Q: student discussion 5-8 minutes)


PB: ``When the inner history of the human entity is known and its lessons absorbed, the problem offers itself: ``How can I escape from myself?''  The answer will necessarily show that the ego can succeed only to a certain degree in such a venture, but it not only cannot go beyond this but will not even try to do so.  How can it consent to its own death?'' (8.4.433)


(Q: student discussion 15-20 minutes from 5/6 through side 1, tape 1 to 1/3 side 2)


(TAPE 1, SIDE 2)


(Q: Para reread, about 10 minutes student discussion.)


KD: Anthony are you talking tonight?  Would you mind commenting on the first part?  I don't know if anyone else has a problem but for me everything centers around that first part, ``When the inner history of the human entity is known and its lessons absorbed.'' It sounds like this is something that happens, a life process, that at a certain stage of development, the problem arises and then the answer is given--is that just something that happens after the living of life, that there's a recognition that I'm the cause of the circumstances that I find myself in, like an inner recognition of the truth of karma, and its because of that recognition there arises a need to get out of . . .


AD: Maybe I could rephrase it, you know, just say it in different words.  How can the ``I,'' which is a self-actualizing process, undo myself?  And if I try to undo myself, isn't that more a doing, and doesn't that strengthen the ego?  Consequently: Catch-22.  I'm in a double-bind.


KD: When you say ``self-actualizing'' you mean . . .


AD: That from instant to instant, this ``I'' is constantly recreating itself and maintaining itself.  So again, if I, parenthetically speaking now, if I am in this self-actualizing process--wish to undo it, wish to stop it, cancel it out, anything I do will strengthen that very process.  Consequently, I'm in a double-bind.


KD: Does that perception come at a certain stage?


AD: It'll happen to a person who has reached some maturity.  It won't happen to a primitive; he won't be concerned about that. Just go over it in your mind, what I said.


You must try to remember--and this is very important--that the ``I'' is constantly, incessantly, actualizing itself, every moment of time.  That has to be made--you have to keep that in mind, because that's what the ``I'' is.  The ``I'' is this PROCESS.  It's like mental combustion.  It feeds on itself, supplies the fuel and feeds on itself.  Keep that in mind.


This is what you are.  Now, how do you stop this?  Well, if you try to stop it, you have to make an effort.  If you make an effort, the ego is getting stronger.  If the ego's getting stronger, then how can you undo what you are?  So it's a double-bind.  You can't get out of it.


Oh, you might improve things a little bit.  You know, instead of being a big cheat, you become a small cheat and then less of a cheat, then finally you become a little honest and become more honest, more and more honest.  But the fact still remains that the ego is this process which any time it attempts to stop itself or undo itself--feeds itself, gets stronger.


MB: Is the arisal of that question an important landmark?


AD: You will never forget it when it happens.


HS: And the formulation of the question, that's the ego within itself?


AD: Yes.  The ego is coming to this recognition of its own nature, sure.


HS: And it could be an actual formulation?


AD: Oh, yes.  You could actually get to a position where you say, ``I HATE YOU!''  And I don't mean ``hate'' in the sense of love and hate, in the sense of opposites. I don't mean hate in that sense. I mean the recognition of what it is, that it is this process.


HS: I read a quote in Gurdjieff that said, ``Anything that belongs to it, dislike.''


AD: Again, won't that strengthen the ego?  Every time that the ego likes something, and I make up my mind to dislike it because the ego likes it, the ego is getting stronger.  You said this was Mr. Gurdjieff?  Yes, that sounds like him.  He thought he was going to awaken out of a deep sleep by more sleep.


HS: Wouldn't you say, at some point though, that as you said there's a necessary, there's a certain revulsion with itself, a self-revulsion? (Q: You said at some point a certain revulsion is necessary? = paraphrase)


AD: Oh, yes.  Paul uses that word. The Buddhists are very fond of that word.  There arises self-revulsion.


HS: Could you say ``hate?''


AD: No, self-revulsion I think would be more accurate, because hate will always bring up its opposite.  And this is NOT in the realm of the opposites.


HS: And it's an inner recognition that?


AD: It's an inner recognition.  The fruit recognizes that it's rotten. (Laughter.)


KD: And that's the lessons that are absorbed?


AD: That's how you come to that recognition--from all the lessons you absorb.


KD: That would make sense.


AH: How is this hate not in the realm of opposites?  Who is it that knows revulsion?


AD: I think the metaphor I used would probably be more to the point, when I said that the fruit recognizes it's rotten. See, as soon as you say a ``who'', you know, and speak in those terms--It's a natural process in the sense that after satiation with experience the ego can come to the recognition that all this leads to vanity. That's all it ends up in.  So it can end up as a process of recognizing the very nature of the ego IS what it is.


But I think the essential point in this quote was the recognition that you're in a double-bind, because when that revulsion occurs and you want to do something about it, you'll see that anything you do about it just reinforces it, makes it stronger.   Just like when you sit down and say, ``I'm going to meditate very hard.''  You've already spoiled it, because,  ``I'm going to meditate very hard,'' shows the ego's in there, and it's going to do its best to remain there.


AH: You can't do anything about it because any DOING is a reinforcement.


AD: Yes, if you DO anything about it, the doer gets bigger.


AH: But to not-do is also a reinforcement?


AD: That's reinforcement too, sure. 


AH: Both doing and not-doing are reinforcements.


AD: A double-bind.


AH: Then I can't even ask the question: Well, what do you do? (laughter)


AD: You take a deep breath.


KD: So what happens? . . .After many lifetimes, do these desires just peter out by themselves?


AD: There's a certain momentum that they have, but basically until the higher power comes along and helps you, you're going to be caught there.  You're going to be in a state--what does he say--of neither here nor there.


There isn't very much you CAN do. (pause)  But some sort of circumstances may come along and help you separate more from the ego.


PC: Wouldn't the process of recognizing that and observing it bring about a change in itself?


AD: First of all, it's not a process of recognition. Like I try to point out in the metaphor that the fruit is rotten.  It's not a recognition; it's being.  This is the fruit.  This is it; it's rotten.  The ego comes to that kind of inward understanding. Whereas ``recognition'' will make us think of something objective, out there, something that I'm going to KNOW.  So what I'm trying to say is it's like intrinsic in the very process of the ego's maturation to reach that stage where it recognizes, in this way, what its nature is.


PC: Isn't there also within that ego the awareness which is always identified with that ego which could turn to the observation of its own nature?  We've talked about this kind of direct observation that has to take place--


AD: Basically, that's what the revulsion is. Repeat your question.


PC: What I'm trying to understand is--he said that until a higher power comes in you're stuck in that situation, but isn't it an actual activity of observation that can take place at that point?


AD: Well, I already answered by saying that that IS direct observation.  Revulsion isn't something you know as ``out there.''  When we said that the fruit is rotten, we're saying that the ego has this intrinsic self-recognition of its own nature.  That's what I mean when I say it recognizes it's rotten, because the ego will always do that.  That's its nature; it can't do anything else.  It will always set about trying to do something: ``Well, now that I understand the situation, I'm going to go ahead and do something about it.''  So it'll bring about some disciplines or some more tricks or exercises, but it won't get out of the cul de sac that it's in.  That's the important thing to understand about this situation.


CS: During that time (Q: in between), could you not pray?


AD: Oh, you could always pray.  Always pray.


CS: Wouldn't that be a better way than letting the ego have its own way?  Is praying totally ego too?


AD: No, but I would be inclined to think once revulsion takes place, it is a prayer in a sense.


How about that first quotation? I didn't follow you people, what you understood by it. (Q: para reread) What was it that was said about that?


TS: (joking) Practically nothing.


PC: I said that from the point of view of the circle of thought that the ego is, it could understand anything about (that consciousness?) because you can't understand (through thought?). (Q: last part hard to hear)


PB: ``The little ego is the only being he knows: the greater Being of philosophic Consciousness would be, and is, beyond his comprehension.''(8.1.25)


AD: Would you say that what we've been trying to do in some of the classes--like to explain the nature of this Being--you know, that it has these various ways of understanding?  That is, direct cognition into itself, and that it can also develop a critical faculty of understanding the World-Idea which is manifesting; and that within that there would be these various levels of intellection, rationality, mentation.  Wouldn't we say that that was what we've been trying to do, show what we thought the philosophic conception of what we are is in comparison to what the ego thinks we are?  Like the ego has this opinion, ``This is what I am,'' etcetera, whereas what we've been trying to understand is what the philosophic conception of what we are.  Wouldn't you say that? And that the ego can't even conceive of these things.


That's why I always preface the remark, when we're reading or studying these people, to remember that they're coming off the philosophic understanding of what a man is, what he's capable of, and the extent of his true being.  Whereas, just think of what the ego thinks it is; and we can see that it can't get out of that notion of what it thinks it is.  It's caught in that notion, it lives in that notion.  But the philosophic conception says, ``Look! You're even capable of contemplating the Void, the ultimate reality.''


(AD requests more paras.)


PB: ``The root of all the trouble is not man's wickedness or animality or cunning greedy mind.  It is his very I-ness, for all those other evils grow out of it.  It is his own ego.  Here is the extraordinary and baffling self-contradiction of the human situation.  It is man's individual existence which brings him suffering and yet it is this very existence which he holds as dear as life to him!'' (11.2.22//Persp. p. 139)


(Q: 3 minutes student discussion on suffering and individual existence, quote reread)


AD: What do you say you love more than anything else?


TS: Myself.


AD: What do you love more than anything else?


TS: My own existence.


AD: Your own ego, huh?  And yet, that's the very thing, like it has been pointed out, we pointed out, that it is the cause of all the suffering we would go through.  And yet we love it more than anything else, and we would not part from it, not willingly.  Isn't that paradoxical?  I know of nothing that gives more pain than the ego, I know of nothing that I love more than that ego. . . .


JA: You said once that the ego wraps itself around a portion of infinite bliss and calls it its own and somehow pain results from that.


AD: You're bringing in another quote?


JA: No, I think YOU said that--you were saying why it is so painful (inaudible)


AD: Say it again.


JA: If it's so painful why is it held so dear?


AD: Well, you tell me.


NH: Isn't the ego the only channel we have, to use to get to the Overself?


AD: What is he talking about here? He's not talking about the Overself; he's talking about the paradoxical situation we find ourselves in.


We love that which gives us more pain than anything else!


NH: The pain is because we are separated from the Overself? (pause)


AD: You experience that as pain?


NH: I think so. I think when I suffer, that's why I suffer.


AD: Honestly, honestly, Nancy.  Do you experience pain because you're separated from the Overself, especially if you never knew it?


NH: No, I guess not.


AD: That's the point.  We don't know the Overself, so let's not talk about the pain of the separation from the Overself.  We DO know the pain that's delivered daily, hourly, weekly, monthly, and yearly.  We do know that pain, and that comes from our own ego.  And this is what we love, despite the fact that it's delivering the punches all the time.  Is this or is it not a paradox?


NH: It's a paradox.


AD: And that's what we are, a paradox.


NH: There's no way out of that?


AD: No.  I want to be very pessimistic tonight.  Sure there's a way out of that. (Q: last sentence very hard to hear.)  Otherwise we all would have been playing Russian roulette a long time ago.


JB: Is the paradox that we seem to love pain or that we assume we only love pleasure?  If what we love is a source of pain, isn't there something to learn in that?


AD: Then why go on loving it?


JB: Then the paradox would disappear, wouldn't it?


AD: Yes, then the paradox would disappear.  But now you're speaking like an optimist.   The fact is, we don't stop loving it. No matter how much pain we suffer from it, we go on loving it even more intensely.  Go ahead, Anna, I know you're going to be an optimist, you're going to bring in Grace.  Come on. (laughter) (Q: AD's comment is a personal `joke' to/about Anna.) I'm trying to make it miserable for everybody. I want to see them start (Q: or possibly `starve--') eating! (laughter) (pause)


Who was it--Dickie was telling me that Mr. Krishnamurti, when he starts his lectures, he says, ``Let's all think together.''  And then he goes on with a lecture for about two hours.  Well, I want us all to think together, Dickie.  So I want to repeat these things sometimes.  I want to make sure you share my pain. (pause)


It is the fundamental thing that we must understand these quotes on the ego.  I don't care who you read, they just do not talk about this item.  As a matter of fact, the one comment from someone who should have known better was, ``Well, you don't want to deliver this kind of stuff.  You don't want to see this published.  It's too harsh.''  Oh sure, let's publish some more comic strips.


MB: Is it (Q: the ego)  really a paradox?  Because if we . . .


AD: Don't Myra, no! (laughter)


MB: Do we really know that it's the ego that's giving us that pain?


AD: Well, I assume that you recognize what the ego is first.  The ordinary person will not understand that; he won't consider that a paradox.  But you're not ordinary.


MB: I'm saying we fail to see that the ego gives us pain.


AD: Well, let me pick indiscriminately. (Q: to a student, Elaine?)  Does the ego give pain?  Or have you noticed that you're in a state of continuous bliss? (laughter)


MB: But we don't ascribe the pain to the ego.  The ego hurts but we don't say it's coming from the ego. We say that it's coming from this and that. We're willing to pass the buck, right and left.


AD: Yes, but you can't do that any more. 


MB: THEN it becomes a paradox. But it doesn't until we're willing to see that.


AD: That's true what you say; the ordinary collective mentality would not understand that the ego is what's the cause of pain, sure.  Go ahead, Anna.  They need encouragement. (laughter)


AP: Isn't the pain we feel comes because we know inwardly that there's something divine in us? . . . Isn't that true?


KD: I don't think so.  I suffer because I don't get what I want, or my job is bad, or my husband's bad, (laughter) or I blame it on my kids or circumstances . . .




DB:... ``If I only had that, then I wouldn't be in such pain.'' But at a certain point it's just another object.


AD: But even that--the point is that you experience joy the moment your wish is gratified because you let go of desire.


DB: But as long as we hold on to that desire, we're forced into a situation of being in pain.... Isn't this an explanation for some people's difficulty in meditation, the reason it's so hard to stop thought is because we like to...Isn't it true that we hold on to these thought processes, even though they're so painful; because we'd rather have the worst memory we can think of rather than . . .


AD: Have no memory at all?


(Q: a few lines of student discussion)


KD: I think it's a real dirty deal, in a way.


AD: Well, that's because you haven't recognized the value of suffering yet.  Then you might not feel it's such a dirty deal.


JG: What? (laughter)


KD: You mean we should all enjoy our suffering? (Q: paraphrase.)


AD: I think you missed the point.  You said you didn't get what you want, and that makes you unhappy.  The point is: you WANT; that's what makes you unhappy. 


KD: But you're forced to have, you're put into this thing with the natal chart.  You're bombarded with . . .


AD: No, no, no, no, no, Kathleen, nobody has to be here if he doesn't want to. NO ONE has to be here unless he wants to be here.  You WANT to be here. Yes.


JB: So we're here for the suffering. (laughter)


AH: That's not so funny. (laughter)


AD: (chuckling) No, you're here because you love your ego. (pause)   The suffering is a concomitant  Let's hear some more words of wisdom from Timothy (Q: who's reading PB)


BS: By ``here'' you mean ego-centered.


AD: I mean here.  Here.  I don't care if you point to your body, point to this room, point to your house, point to the planet: you're here.


KD: God help us all!


AD: He tries very hard.


PB: ``If he is willing to look for them, he will find the hidden workings of the ego in the most unsuspected corners, even in the very midst of his loftiest spiritual aspirations.  The ego is unwilling to die and will even welcome this large attrition of its scope if that is its only way of escape from death.  Since it is necessarily the active agent in these attempts at self-betterment, it will be in the best position to take care that they shall end as a seeming victory over itself but not an actual one.  The latter can be achieved only by directly confronting it and, under Grace's inspiration, directly slaying it; this is quite different from confronting and slaying any of its widely  varied expressions in weaknesses and faults.  They are not at all the same.  They are the branches but the ego is the root.  Therefore when the aspirant gets tired of this never-ending Long Path battle with his lower nature, which can be conquered in one expression only to appear in a new one, gets weary of the self-deceptions in the much pleasanter imagined accomplishments of the Short Path, he will be ready to try the last and only resource.  Here at long last he gets at the ego itself by completely surrendering it, instead of preoccupying himself with its numerous disguises--which may be ugly, as envy, or attractive, as virtue.''(8.4.167//Persp. p. 96)


(Q: pieces of above para re-read, with student discussion.)


PB: ``If he is willing . . . escape from death.''


AH: What is ``this large attrition''?  The larger field of philosophical ideals? How do you understand that?


KD: Maybe it's associated with ``the lofty aspiration''? The lofty aspiration would itself be a thought-desire and that would be the ego.


TS: Insofar as that aspiration is a thought or an emotion in the mind, insofar as there is a certain impersonality to the thought or to the emotion, there is a certain attrition to the scope of the ego.


AD: Like in the case of a saint, the dominance of the ego is considerably reduced.  In the case of an advanced mystic, it is even more reduced.  But the point is, that it doesn't let go.  It is willing to lose some of its power rather than be annihilated.  So it will give up a little bit at a time some of its power, so in that sense it is reduced in size or it is reduced in power.  You would expect from a saintly man or an advanced contemplative that there would be less egotism in him.


PB: ``. . .Since it is necessarily . . .a seeming victory. . .not an actual one.''


AD: You follow that?


AH: (It is a?) process of deluding oneself into having conquered something. Is the dynamic one whereby the ego imagines it has conquered itself?


AD: It doesn't imagine; it KNOWS it hasn't conquered itself. It's going to make YOU think it's conquered itself.  Like let's say you're carrying out a certain exercise; let's say you're breathing in strength or holiness (Q: PC version = `wholeness') or peace.  In the act of breathing-IN, the ego is the agent, and to that extent will modify the cosmic forces coming into you and modify them according to its own standard and its own rights, its own way of understanding these things, which will mean that it should never be annihilated. So it's the agent, the agent in the process of you trying to be better, so consequently, insofar as it's the agent, it controls the situation.


KD: That breathing in, even without images? You're saying the very act of breathing in modifies that?


AD: Yes. Sure.


KD: Even without thought?


AD: Well, without thought I don't know that you'd be using the exercise.  But if we're speaking about a person doing ANY exercise--it doesn't matter what the exercise is; I use this one--and in the process, like you say ``as I  breath in'' you imagine that you're breathing in holiness (Q: PC = `wholeness') or strength or whatever quality you wish to improves (Q: PC = `accrue'), the act of breathing IN is an act by an agent, the ego.  It's like a filter.  What it breathes IN is filtered according to its own make up.  It isn't that it's going to let those cosmic currents come in pure and clean without filtering them.  So it always is in control, even in the process of trying to reach _nirvana_.


Would you read that sentence again?


PB: ``Since it is . . .actual one.''


AH: The ego makes absolutely sure the victory is a seeming one.


AD: Yes.  The ego isn't going to preside over its own annihilation, of course.  One would assume automatically that it's going to interfere in some way or another to prevent that from happening.  Can you imagine the ego saying, ``Here I am; now I'm going to get rid of myself?''


AH: That's the paradox.


AD: No, that's not a paradox; that's a LIE.  It's not going to do it (Q: that?), ever.  It's NEVER going to do that.


BS: Now it's very confusing because the ego can't do all these things. The ego cannot be the one to annihilate itself. Once you even SPEAK about annihilating the ego, it's an affirmation of the ego.


AD: Yes.  Not only that, he's not going to submit to that.


BS: . . .It seems you cannot directly attack the ego.


AD: It isn't a question of directly attacking the ego. The way to put it, is  to say that the ego will not destroy itself.  Even if you're in the process of going through certain spiritual disciplines which are attempting to reduce the ego's strength, the ego will resist.  It will be very subtle about its resistance.  It doesn't necessarily have to express it or show it.  But it will be there, and it will do everything it can to prevent that.


BS: But spiritual disciplines, if they are to have any validity, should not be able to affirm the ego.


AD: But you're separating the discipline from the person who does it, as though they are two things.  They're not.  It's one thing you're speaking about.  The person who is carrying on the discipline is one thing, not two things--a discipline and a person.


BS: Is the person equatable with the ego?


AD: Yes.  How effectual the disciplines or the means are towards spirituality depends upon the person who's using them.  To that extent they're effectual or not effectual.  Now, let's say the more gross the ego, the less effectual these disciplines are going to be.  The more refined the ego, the more effective they're going to be.  But you can't separate the discipline from the person who's doing the discipline.  There is no objective discipline.  It just doesn't mean anything.


BS: . . . consciously disciplines . . . (Q: very hard to hear)


AD: No.  The mystic consciously disciplines himself, and he's aware also of the interferences that are constantly emanating from his ego.  If he's any kind of a mystic, he's aware of that.  He'll notice the intrusions and the subterfuges and also the camouflaging that's going on all the time, the way the reason will be distorted to accommodate the ego.  These are things that one notices. Let's finish the quote.


PB: ``An actual victory can be achieved only by directly confronting it, and under Grace's inspiration, directly slaying it . . .''


AD: See, here's the point where you reach a certain level or a certain stage of contemplative exercise and it's taken out of your hands; it's the King within that starts guiding the whole process.  The individual ego would never be able to do it.  That grace takes over and directs, and of course you'll be aware of that intuitively, that it's doing it.


MB: What kind of slaying the ego is he referring to in this quote?  Is this a literal slaying where the ego is wiped out and a person goes into the state of void . . .? (Q: paraphrase)


AD: What kind of slaying?  I don't know what you mean.


MB: What is PB talking about?  Who's killing who, and what's left afterwards?


(Q: 10 minutes of class discussion, PB para finished)


HS: Would it be that a saintly man and a man not so versed in the virtues are both confronting that same ``I'' thought? (Q: paraphrase.)


AD: Again.


HS: A man who has attenuated . . his ego has given up part of the field, we call him saintly, and just a . . .whoever can (can't?) apprach this kind of inquiry--are they both--whoever it is, just approaching the I-thought?


AD: I think what you're asking is: what is this ego that is going to be slain?  What is it?


HS: What is it? Me, my existence, what I take myself to be?


AD: No, I just asked a question.


HS: I wouldn't know how to answer.


AD: It would be very hard to slay it, then, wouldn't it, if you don't know what it is? (pause)


I don't know perhaps, under certain situations where the total personality operates or the total man is operative, under circumstances of that nature, sometimes, I think we become aware of what we might call our innermost ``I.''  I think most of us have a feeling for that that's buried very deeply within us, and you have to really use a lot of excavation to get to that ``I'' that I really am.  I think most of us are aware that we have such a thing.  Can you give it up?  It's not very clear while we're living the psychological life, and if we could imagine that we could leave that behind and go to a life that is more spiritual in the sense that we're living in the subtlety of the mind.  And if we could imagine that it's possible to go beyond that to a point where we would say that the entire processes of knowledge which have taken place are or (Q: for) the reason of that consciousness fulfilling itself through those thoughts.  And if we could trace it back...now, as we're doing this, as we're tracing back this ``I'' thought it becomes ever more and more ethereal and refined and difficult to pinpoint because it's no longer a thing; it becomes really a state.  The point I'm trying to get to is that within the psychological state, that ``I-ness'' is relatively undefined, not very articulate.  But as we advance into more mystical states, that becomes more and more defined and more and more felt.




So we become identified with an infinite existence. (Q: This sentence not on tape [tape break] but is on PC transcript.)


The next step is to give that up.  And you won't.  No one will give that up.  A situation has to be brought about where you're forced to choose between identifying with that ``I-ness'' or dropping it.  And the analyses from the psychological level just are inadequate.


JG: How can this ``I'' thought be so gigantic?


AD: Sure.  I don't think I could go further. But there is something IN us, in the way that Randy quoted PB (to?) pointing out, that there's something which takes charge and KNOWS and can distinguish between the profoundest subtleties of the ego and the non-ego.  And one has to deliver oneself completely to that guidance. I can't say more than that, right?  Maybe next week . . . Thank you very much. (Rings bell.)


(Q: end class)