Thursday, January 24, 2008



How hard it is to live with yourself! One of the ways in which the ego attempts to escape the unsatisfactoriness of personal selfhood is to enlarge and strengthen its sense of self by identifying with a group--a nation, political party, corporation, institution, sect, club, gang, football team.

In some cases the personal ego seems to dissolve completely as someone dedicates his or her life to working selflessly for the greater good of the collective without demanding personal rewards, recognition, or aggrandizement. What a relief to be freed of the dreadful burden of personal self. The members of the collective feel happy and fulfilled, no matter how hard they work, how many sacrifices they make. They appear to have gone beyond ego. The question is: Have they truly become free, or has the ego simply shifted from the personal to the collective?

A collective ego manifests the same characteristics as the personal ego, such as the need for conflict and enemies, the need for more, the need to be right against others who are wrong, and so on. Sooner or later, the collective will come into conflict with other collectives, because it unconsciously seeks conflict and it needs opposition to define its boundary and thus its identity. Its members will then experience the suffering that inevitably comes in the wake of any ego-motivated action. At that point, they may wake up and realize that their collective has a strong element of insanity.

It can be painful at first to suddenly wake up and realize that the collective you had identified with and worked for is actually insane. Some people at that point become cynical or bitter and henceforth deny all values, all worth. This means that they quickly adopted another belief system when the previous one was recognized as illusory and therefore collapsed. They didn't face the death of their ego but ran away and reincarnated into a new one.

A collective ego is usually more unconscious than the individuals that make up that ego. For example, crowds (which are temporary collective egoic entities) are capable of committing atrocities that the individual away from the crowd would not be. Nations not infrequently engage in behavior that would be immediately recognizable as psychopathic in an individual.

As the new consciousness emerges, some people will feel called upon to form groups that reflect the enlightened consciousness. These groups will not be collective egos. The individuals who make up these groups will have no need to define their identity through them. They no longer look to any form to define who they are. Even if the members that make up those groups are not totally free of ego yet, there will be enough awareness in them to recognize the ego in themselves or in others as soon as it appears. However, constant alertness is required since the ego will try to take over and reassert itself in any way it can. Dissolving the human ego by bringing it into the light of awareness-this will be one of the main purposes of these groups, whether they be enlightened businesses, charitable organizations, schools, or communities of people living together. Enlightened collectives will fulfill an important function in the arising of the new consciousness. Just as egoic collectives pull you into unconsciousness and suffering, the enlightened collective can be a vortex for consciousness that will accelerate the planetary shift.
---Excerpt from A New Earth by Eckhart Tolle


adam said...

The real tragedy of collective egoism lies in its ability to engender social subjugation among individuals due to either shame or pride felt for a group identity. Of course this is also the tragedy of individual ego, i.e. that while individuals are feeling pride for their accomplishments, they are becoming that much more alienated from clear consciousness of what they are doing.

Yet with collective ego, the individual becomes alienated not only from her consciousness but from her own individuality. She can now only feel pride and shame; and her only response to either must be to try to use social control to effect others within the social body to do the right thing. So even when she does her best to contribute to victory for "her team," she may no longer feel satisfaction in her individual contribution. For if her team loses, then so does she and her ego will feel shame the same as if she had done nothing or even sabotaged the team effort.

But at least the person who contributes to the team effort has SOME power in shaping the collective actions she has come to identify with. Too many people are relegated to the sidelines as pure spectators with barely any power to contribute to the team's success while still being subject to the pain or pleasure of ego when it wins or loses.

This powerlessness is alienating but it becomes addictive precisely because it creates so much distance between themselves and their ego-identification. Thus people can spend their lives seeking others to scoff at and ridicule because it makes them feel safely invisible. Such people live in fear of identifying with even their own personal ego, because they have never felt the joy of overcoming concerns with social validation in order to experience pure accomplishment.

Pure accomplishment provides the only true liberation from ego-imprisonment, collective or personal. However fleeting the escape from egoism may be, such pure accomplishment is immensely therapeutic because it anesthetizes the pain and pride of social acceptance/rejection by allowing us to know for ourselves directly what we have done with our own power.

Anonymous said...

Pride, shame and accomplishment are all part of the ego. An egoless person cares nothing for these, and is content just being. Doing (if there is an end motivation or payoff) is usually ego. Tragedy is not in the vocabulary of an egoless person, as all things are as they are, without judgement. Even death is a natural event needing no judgement.