A lot of spiritual and self-help books you’ll find on the shelf in bookstores these days talk about transcending the ego. Ceasing to identify with a limited self.
What exactly is the ego? The ego is our feeling of “me” or “self.” It’s your basic identity as an individual that gives you a feeling of separateness with everything and everyone else. It’s the basic feeling of “I am.”
Your ego is what gives you the feeling of an individual identity, separate from everything else.
What does it mean to transcend the ego?
When we transcend the ego, we realize that we have a higher self beyond our limited view of our individual identity. It means that we no longer see our identity as simply an individual consciousness, but rather that we are the consciousness that moves through all things.
When we transcend the ego, it doesn’t mean we kill the ego. Transcending the ego does not mean waging a war against the ego. It means that we move to a higher context of self and include our individual self as well. Egolessness does not mean the absence of a functional self, it means one is no longer exclusively identified with that self.
Moving beyond a limited self
Realizing our true nature, that we are not just our egos, enables us to engage the world more fully. It doesn’t mean we become some ultimate being free from all our humanly desires, pains, pleasures and basic instincts. If that’s what you’re expecting, you’re looking for an escape. Rather transcending and including the ego allows us to engage life more fully, with a deeper context of spirit, using the vehicle of the self to accomplish our goals.
Transcending the ego means does not mean killing the ego, it means plugging into something bigger. To lose the ego, is to become a psychotic, not a sage. Liberation is found by complete immersion, not by escape.
The point of life is to be fully at home in the body, in the ego, with all its humanly characteristics. To be truly immersed in all the body’s desires and needs, the minds ideas and thoughts, our spirit and the light that shines through it. To embrace them fully, with verve and exuberance.
“In the stillness of the night, the Goddess whispers. In the brightness of the day, dear God roars. Life pulses, mind imagines, emotions wave, thoughts wander. What are all these but the endless movements of One Taste, forever at play with its own gestures, whispering quietly to all who would listen: is this not you yourself? When the thunder roars, do you not hear your Self? When the lightning cracks, do you not see your Self? When clouds float quietly across the sky, is this not your very own limitless Being, waving back at you?” – Ken Wilber
David B. Bohl @SlowDownFAST.com says
Found your blog through the Brazen Careerist site.
Good post. You’ve very succinctly illustrated just how strange the ego is. Mine makes me think I’m either the best at what I do or the worst (negative ego) – and there’s seldom anything in between.
Because I can complicate a straight line, I simply need to get outside of myself and be of service to others to “transcend” my ego.
Andrea Hess | Empowered Soul says
I think the ego gets a bad rap a lot of the time! The ego is simply the part of us that manages the practical aspects of our third-dimensional existence – it would be terrible to do away with this aspect of ourselves altogether …
The ego must, however, serve our Higher Self. In our society, the ego has become how we identify ourselves, and this identification must shift.
Jon that is beautifully put, Thank you. And I love the quote also. I’ve been reading a lot about this lately and the way I also interpret it is that transcending the ego means living in the now, this very moment and the ego, the “I am” tries to avoid that. The ego finds ways to take you to the future or the past (as in memories or future plans) or attempts to keep you in a feeling of discontent, frustration, anger or whatever your poison is so to speak, because we are not conscious of it but that becomes our identity and the ego seeks out identity in many forms, often negative. But yes, to identify this is key and transcend. Not to try and kill the ego. Today I thought about how many times I’ve thought “I will be happy when…” this or that happens. How much time I’ve wasted thinking that I will *find* happiness when that is impossible. You can only be happy in this moment, it is not something down the road. The ego, that voice in our head, is responsible for that. To recognize this is to transcend it and be able to be present and happy in the moment.
Hi there Jon –
Nice blog, “stumbled” by a few moments ago and while Ken Wilber certainly knows how to turn a phrase – his quotes on the destruction of the ego are about as ironic as Barry Bonds impressions on how steroids have ruined baseball..;-) Try reading “real” wilber stuff – his blog posts, his interaction at Integral Inst. and beyond… not the poetic prose and you will see a brilliant mind, but one perpetually basking in the reflection of his own creative accomplishments. States/stages/levels and lines – they apply even to the guy making the map! Good writing here – liked it a lot.
Desika Nadadur | I Am My Own Master says
Interesting article! Ego comes in many facets. Gangaji in her book, “Diamond in your pocket” talks about ego further splitting into two as “ego” and “superego.” The “superego” trying to control the “ego,” saying, “you should not have done that. Look what you did.” and so on. This is the voice in our head chastising us for doing something wrong. Ego is the great dramatist!
Thanks for this article.
Thank you for your elaboration on the transcendence of ego.
I think the simplest and most succinct definition of the transcendence of ego I have encountered is as follows: The goal in the transcendence of ego is to see your self as part of the world rather than separate from it.
‘The ego is our feeling of “me” or “self.” It’s your basic identity as an individual that gives you a feeling of separateness with everything and everyone else. It’s the basic feeling of “I am.”’
The ‘me’ and ‘I am’ are not identical. The ‘me’ (ego, individual self) is just a thought structure, which builds its identity on the sense of ‘I Am’, which is impersonal and common to all beings. The ‘I Am’ is eternal, God itself.
While your ‘me’ is destroyed at the death of the body, the impersonal sense of existence that the ‘me’ borrowed continues to live on in every present, and future being. It is life itself.
We all share in God’s beingness, and thus are in our essence God. It is only the mind and ego that deludes, and individuates a false sense of ‘me’ using the sense ‘I am’.
Good post, though. The idea of transcending the ego is much more helpful than all-out destruction for most people.
Charlie Angel says
Came across this article by chance, as it were. I have been fascinated with the inner and outer realm of ego for many years,having lived a vast life . Meeting and interacted with more than most could imagine possible. It has kept me a student of human behaviour up and till this very present moment. Observing myself in reaction to the various dimensions of my own BEHAVIOUR. Relationships and responding from the Self.
This gave me a perspective of a new kind of understanding why we do and feel or think the way we do.