Paul Brunton Philosophic Foundation homepage > Notebooks of Paul Brunton > Category 8: The Ego > Chapter 5: Detaching from The Ego (Part 2)

Detaching from The Ego (Part 2)

Longing for freedom from ego

The longing which possesses the seeker is there because of what the Overself is and what the ego is not. There are contradictory reactions between them. The ego is attracted through an evolutionary compulsion outside itself and yet it is also repulsed through its own instinct of self-preservation. Hence the longing is not always there: again and again conflict appears and battle must be revived, victory regained.

The weariness of life which shows itself in the desire not to be born again at all, in the yearning for Nirvanic peace, may come from having endured too deep suffering. But it may also come from having saturated oneself with experiences of all kinds during a series of reincarnations far longer than the average one. It is then really a desire to extinguish the tired ego.

Will a day ever come, he may wonder, when the ego will reach the end of its own tether and lie utterly still?

It is both the irony and tragedy of life that we use up its strictly limited quota of years in pursuits which we come later to see as worthless and in desires which we find bring pain with their fulfilment. The dying man, who sees the cinema-film of his past flash in review before his mental eyes, discovers this irony and feels this tragedy.

When he finds that he has been following his own will even at those times when he believed he was following the higher self's will, he begins to realize the extent of the ego's power, the length of the period required for its subdual, and what he will have to suffer before this is achieved.

One day he will feel utterly tired of the ego, will see how cunningly and insidiously it has penetrated all his activities, how even in supposedly spiritual or altruistic activities he was merely working for the ego. In this disgust with his earthly self, he will pray for liberation from it. He will see how it tricked him in the past, how all his years have been monopolized by its desires, how he sustained, fed, and cherished it even when he thought he was spiritualizing himself or serving others. Then he will pray fervently to be freed from it, he will seek eagerly to dis-identify himself and yearn ardently to be swallowed up in the nothingness of God.

When the wish for non-existence becomes as continuous as the thirst for repeated earthly existence formerly was, when with George Darley, the early nineteenth-century English poet, he can say "There to lay me down at peace/ In my own first nothingness," he has become an old soul.

He will make the depressing discovery that even when he believed he was climbing from peak to peak in overcoming the ego, he was really walking in a circle on flat ground--such is its power to delude him. When he thought he was becoming free of its chains, he was merely clanking them in another part of this circular area! It will make for melancholy reflection to find that he is still a prisoner after all these years of endeavour. Nevertheless the awakening to this fact is itself a triumph over illusion and should be used to counteract his sadness. For from then on he will be in a better position to know what are the false steps and what are the right ones in seeking to escape and he will also be more ready to look outside himself for help in doing what he must recognize is so hard to do by himself.

All his longings to escape from the prison of the ego and to reach the I AM in himself reflect themselves in his experiments with drink, drugs, sex, adventure, or ambition.

The impulse which impels men to seek truth or find God comes from something higher than their ego.

His quest has reached its end when the ego, by the Overself's grace, has come at long last to desire fully and attain successfully its own extinction rather than, as before, its own aggrandizement.

The desire for death which rises when suffering seems unendurable is at bottom a desire for release from individual entity.

Knowledge is needed

If we can first understand and then realize that we have it within us to provide channels for the higher power, we may override difficulties that the little and limited ego could not cope with.

It is no doubt an excellent effort to attempt the ego's curbing, restraining, disciplining, or purifying. But this is only a preliminary and cannot of itself bring enlightenment. Moreover, it is a preliminary that never seems to come to an end. As one fault is removed, a new one created by new circumstances or developments arises. So what is really required is the ego's dissolution. But this cannot be brought about without first acquiring some understanding of what the ego really is.

It is not to be expected that anyone can dissociate himself from the false identification with the ego before he has fully become convinced of the ego's unreality.

The student who wishes to progress beyond mere parrot-like book memorization will fill his mind with this great truth of the ego's unreality, permeate it by constant reflections about it at every opportune moment, and regularly bring it into his formal meditation periods. He will approach it from every possible angle and study every possible side of it.

"Give up thyself" is the constant injunction of all the great prophets. Before we can understand why this was their refrain, we must first understand the nature of the self about which they were talking. There is in every man a false self--the ego--and the true one--the Overself.

The ego stands in the way: its own presence annuls awareness of the presence of the Overself. But this need not be so. Correct and deeper understanding of what the self is, proper adjustment between the individual and the universal in consciousness, will bring enlightenment.

The mystic must first get a knowledge of the laws of the human psyche before he can understand what is happening to him.

When he can begin to see his errors, he is beginning to be self-aware.

To know what his real "I" is not is a first and most important step toward knowing what it really is. Indeed, it has a liberating effect.

The ego's rigidity must first be overcome: it shuts up consciousness within itself. If he can become aware of his imprisonment, this will be the beginning of finding freedom from the tendencies and impulses which largely compose it.

He must mentally rectify the errors of those instinctive egoistic reactions which the philosophic discipline will make him aware of--an awareness that may come quite soon after they happen or much later.

He has taken a tremendous step forward who comes to see his ego as ugly and unworthy, his spiritual path as self-aggrandizement.

Only when the ego ceases to have any existence for us can we transcend it. Only when we cease to believe in its reality can we lose the attachment for it.

He needs to look at himself without letting the ego get in the way.

He must begin by learning that the ego is very much the lesser part of himself, that it must be kept down in its place as an obedient servant, its desires scrutinized and disciplined or even negated, its illusions exposed and removed.

We begin by understanding the ego--a work which requires patience because much of the ego is hidden, masked or disguised. We end by getting free from it.

It is easy to recognize some of the attachments from which he must loose himself--the greeds, the lusts, and the gluttonies--but it is not so easy to recognize the subtler ones. These start with attachment to his own ideas, his own beliefs; they end with attachment to his own ego.

Insufficient insight is the cause of the power which ego-illusion retains over us. When we perceive that reality is beyond speculation, our intellectual searchings lose their utility and value and die down; the mind becomes undisturbed and calm.

The self-image which he holds may continue to keep him tied or help to set him free.

Most people exist self-sufficiently in their ego and demand nothing further from life. But if intuition can finally break through, or reason slowly work down to its deepest level, they find out how childish is such an attitude, how lacking in true maturity.

Both Shankara and Ramana Maharshi blame identification with the body as ignorance, which the first says results in "no hope of liberation" and the second says is "the root cause of all trouble." What they say is unquestionably so. But what else can happen in the beginning except this identification? It is the first kind of identity anyone knows. His error is that he stays at this point and makes no attempt to inquire further. If he did--in a prolonged, sustained, and continued effort--he would eventually find the truth: knowledge would replace ignorance.

Charity, service, helpfulness, character-building--all such activities are good, but they take and leave the ego as a given fact. They are willing to curb, discipline, correct, reform, polish, or purify the ego, but its permanent and real existence is accepted not only as true but as a part of things as they are in nature.

Tracing ego to its source

So long as we persist in taking the ego at its own valuation as the real Self, so long are we incapable of discovering the truth about the mind or of penetrating to its mysterious depths. It is a pretender, but so long as no enquiry is instituted it goes on enjoying the status of the real Self. Once an enquiry into its true nature is begun in the proper manner and continued as long as necessary, this identification with ego may subside and surrender to the higher.

To trace the ego to its lair is to observe its open and covered manifestations, to analyse, comprehend, and note their everchanging ephemerality. Finally it too turns out to be but a thought structure--empty, and capable of dissolution like all thoughts.

Such are the demands of the personal self that they will assuredly never end if we do not check them at their source. And this source is our inborn belief in the reality of the personal ego.

Systems of discipline may weaken the ego, may tether it to some code or ideal, may bring it under some sort of control; but they do not bring about any root change in the man who is still himself controlled by the same old master, the same old ego. These systems may even suppress the self for a time, but that is not the same, nor can it give the same lasting result, as clearly facing the self and penetrating it by the understanding of insight.

Be still and know! This is to be done by practising the art of meditation deep into its second stage and then--for it cannot properly be done before--tracing the ego to its hidden lair. Here it must be faced. Being still involves the achievement of mental silence, without which the ego remains cunningly active and keeps him within its sphere of influence. Knowing involves penetrating to the ego's secret source where, in its lulled and weakened condition, it can be confronted and killed.

The ego is always in hiding and often in disguise. It is a cunning creature, never showing its own face, so that even the man who wants to destroy its rule is easily tricked into attacking everything else but the ego! Therefore, the first (as well as the final) essential piece of knowledge needed to track it down to its secret lair is how to recognize and identify it.

When the great battle is over, the Overself will give him back his ego without giving him back its dominance.

Everything we do or say, feel or think is related back to the ego. We live tethered to its post and move in a circle. The spiritual quest is really an attempt to break out of this circle. From another point of view it is a long process of uncovering what is deeply hidden by our ego, with its desires, emotions, passions, reasonings, and activities. Taking still another point of view, it is a process of dissociating ourselves from them. But it is unlikely that the ego could be induced to end its own rule willingly. Its deceptive ways and tricky habits may lead an aspirant into believing that he is reaching a high stage when he is merely travelling in a circle. The way to break out of this circle is either to seek out the ego's source or, where that is too difficult, to become closely associated and completely obedient to a true Master. The ego, being finite, cannot produce an infinite result by its own efforts. It spins out its thoughts and sends out its desires day after day. They may be likened to cobwebs which are renewed or increased and which never disappear for long from the darkened corners of a room, however often they may be brushed away. So long as the spider is allowed to live there, so long will they reappear again. Tracking down the ego to its lair is just like hunting out the spider and removing it altogether from the room. There is no more effective or faster way to attain the goal than to ferret out its very source, offer the ego to that Source, and finally by the path of affirmations and recollections unite oneself with it.

Each person's life is coloured by his individual attitude. This is shaped by the ego and limits both his experience and his understanding of life. At every stage of the quest, the seeker must try to track the ego to its lair, but only at the final stage can he force it into the open, to be seen at last for what it really is. It had deceived him all along into believing it was the true self.

The truth affronts his egoism, for if accepted, it leaves him crushed and enfeebled.

The ego knows that if profoundly concentrated attention is directed toward ascertaining its true nature the result will be suicidal, for its own illusory nature would be revealed. This is why it opposes such a meditation and why it allows all other kinds.

When the ego is brought to its knees in the dust, humiliated in its own eyes, however esteemed or feared, envied or respected in other men's eyes, the way is opened for Grace's influx. Be assured that this complete humbling of the inner man will happen again and again until he is purified of all pride. (8.4.430)

Out of this ego-crushing, pride-humbling experience he may rise, chastened, heedful, and obeisant to the higher will. (8.4.431)

``Dissolution'' of ego

Being what it is, a compound of higher and lower attributes which are perpetually in conflict, the ego has no assured future other than that of total collapse. The Bible sentence, "A Kingdom divided against itself cannot stand," is very applicable to it: this is why the aspirant must take heart that one day his goal will be reached, even if there were no law of evolution to confirm it--as there is.

In this strange experience when his life passes before his mind's eye like a pageant but he does not feel that the figure he is watching is really himself, he learns the truth--or rather has the possibility of learning it--that even the personal ego is also a changing transitory appearance.

The realization of human insignificance as against the cosmic background impresses deeply. However, there is another aspect to this realization. It is an excellent preparation for the thought of the Void wherein the individual human entity is not merely insignificant but is actually non-existent, merged or rather returned to that which gave it birth.

In the tremendous amplitude of this cosmic revelation, his ego narrows down to a littleness befitting its true character. Its problems diminish or disappear accordingly.

Everyone is already practising devotion to his own ego: he loves and surrenders to it. If, by enquiry and reflection, by art or meditation, he arrives at the discovery that the essential being of "I" is none other than "He," and penetrates it deeply and constantly until he becomes established in the new identity, his ego dissolves by itself. Thenceforward he fulfils his highest duty as a man.

Hindus stress an everlasting state of bliss beyond the rebirths. Time is as illusory as its opposite number, prolonged time or eternity. Whether the ego goes out drowning in fear of bodily death or drowning in Nirvana's bliss, it goes out in the end.

That there is an absolute end to all his existence may frighten one man but console another.

Who is willing to let himself vanish, even during the brief hour of meditation, into the primal origin of all things?

Disattachment from the world is not necessarily withdrawing from it. Getting rid of the ego does not mean destroying its existence (for metaphysically it is non-existent, a whirlpool of water) but destroying its dominant power.

We ascribe permanence and bestow reality on the ego, a mistake which leads to all the mistaken thoughts, attitudes, courses, and acts that follow as its effects. But the fact is that no ego can be preserved in perpetuity and that all egos are made up of ephemerally joined together activities. One of the first consequences flowing from this fact is that any happiness which depends on the ego's keeping its united state must break down with its further changes or disunion. Moreover, since the cosmic law dooms all egos to eventual merger in their higher source, a merger which must be preceded by their dissolution if it is to take place at all, their egoistic happiness is likewise doomed.

It would be utterly ridiculous not to grant some kind of existence to the ego within his world of appearances. This, our own eyes, our own sensations, tell us to be the case. But it is equally ridiculous for the ego to arrogate to itself a higher and more durable kind of existence than it actually possesses or a self-sufficiency that belongs only to its infinite source. None of the elements which form it is a permanent nucleus and none by itself is entitled to its name. Dissolve these elements and the ego likewise dissolves, thus revealing its temporary character. Still all thoughts, give the quietus to all passions, calm all emotions, and individual characteristics of an ego vanish.

All those thoughts and memories which now compose the pattern of his life have to be put aside if he is to deny himself.

The chains of earthly desire will be worn down to paper thinness.

So long as these varied thoughts hold together, so long is the sense of a separate personality created in the mind. That this is so is shown by mystical experience, wherein the thoughts disappear and the ego with them, yet the true being behind them continues to live.

There is no enduring ego.

This little creature, infatuated with itself to the point of centering its consciousness in nothing else, will have to suffer evaporation of its body and annihilation of its ego in the end.

Grace is needed

The subjugation of his ego is a Grace to be bestowed on him, not an act which can be done by him.

In that last battle when he comes face to face with the ego, when it has to put off all its protective disguises and expose its vulnerability, he must call upon the help of Grace. He cannot possibly win it by his own powers.

Each person is stuck in his own ego until the idea of liberation dawns on him and he sets to work on himself and eventually grace manifests and puts him on the Short Path.

The frontal attack on the ego's weaknesses and faults can lead to certain beneficial results, such as reducing their size and diminishing their power, or to their total surface repression but cannot lead to their total elimination. All methods which dissolve the I's faults and weaknesses still leave the I itself undissolved. All techniques which change the ego's qualities and attributes still leave the ego-root unchanged.

There would be no hope of ever getting out of this ego-centered position if we did not know these three things. First, the ego is only an accumulation of memories and a series of cravings, that is, thought; it is a fictitious entity. Second, the thinking activity can come to an end in stillness. Third, Grace, the radiation of the Power beyond man, is ever-shining and ever-present. If we let the mind become deeply still and deeply observant of the ego's self-preserving instinct, we open the door to Grace, which then lovingly swallows us.

The senses which tempt him to go astray from his chosen path of conduct may be subjugated in time by right thoughts. The thoughts which distract him from his chosen path of meditation may be subjugated by persistent effort. But the ego which bars his entry into the kingdom of heaven refuses, and only pretends, to subjugate itself.

He finds that no man can totally deny his ego, can step outside himself by trying to do so; some help, some intervention, some grace from outside is needed.

How could he see in clear light his unshakeable egocentricity, how confess it to himself when the ego would itself have to help bring about the confession?

That which keeps us busy with one kind of activity after another--mental as well as physical--until we fall asleep tired, is nothing other than the ego. In that way it diverts one's attention from the need of engaging in the supremely important activity--the struggle with and destruction of the ego itself.

This whittling away of the ego may occupy the entire lifetime and not seem very successful even then, yet it is of the highest value as a preparatory process for the full renunciation of the ego when--by Grace--it suddenly rises up in the heart.

The ego's interest in its own transcendence is necessarily spurious. This is why grace is a necessity.

It is as hard for the ego to judge itself fairly, to look at its actions with a correct perspective as for a man to lift himself by his own braces. It simply cannot do it; its capacity to find excuses for itself is unlimited--even the excuse of righteousness, even the excuse of the quest of truth. All that the aspirant can hope to do is to thin down the volume of the ego's operations and to weaken the strength of the ego itself; but to get rid of the ego entirely is something beyond his own capacity. Consequently, an outside power must be called in. There is only one such power available to him, although it may manifest itself in two different ways, and that is the power of Grace. Those ways are: either direct help by his own higher Self or personal help from a higher man, that is, an illumined teacher. He may call for the first at any time, but he may not rightly call for the second before he has done enough work on himself and made enough advance to justify it.

The ego may have to be broken to bits, if necessary, to let the Grace enter in, to open a way through passivity replacing arrogance.

Virtue and compassion thin down the ego but do not confer enlightenment.

The destruction of our egoism must come from the outside if we will not voluntarily bring it about from the inside. But in the former case it will come relentlessly and crushingly.

Where is the man who does not assume the reality of his ego? He is deluded, of course, but what else can he do if he is to attend to the business of everyday living? The answer is that he can do nothing else--unless Grace comes and attends to the business for him!

His own self-centeredness keeps out the light. If he himself cannot open up a free way to let it in, then grace alone can crush his ego and thus reveal his sin and bring about surrender.

When the ego is brought to its knees in the dust, humiliated in its own eyes, however esteemed or feared, envied or respected in other men's eyes, the way is opened for Grace's influx. Be assured that this complete humbling of the inner man will happen again and again until he is purified of all pride.

Out of this ego-crushing, pride-humbling experience he may rise, chastened, heedful, and obeisant to the higher will.

Who is seeking?

Who is the seeker on this Quest? It is the ego. And who undergoes all the experiences and develops all the ideas upon it? It is also the ego. Let us not therefore be too hasty in denigrating the ego; it has its place and serves in its place.

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?

The question arises who is to practise this annulment? The ego can feint and play at doing so, but in the very act is thereby preserving itself.

What or who is seeking enlightenment? It cannot be the higher Self, for that is itself of the nature of Light. There then only remains the ego! This ego, the object of so many denunciations and denigrations, is the being that, transformed, will win truth and find Reality even though it must surrender itself utterly in the end as the price to be paid.

We are told to control, restrain, or even banish the ego. But who or what in us is to do the work? And is the ego to banish itself?

The attrition of the ego will come out of this incessant struggle against it, but the atrophy of the ego will not. For who is the struggler? It is the ego himself. He will not willingly commit suicide, although he will deceptively allow a steady grinding-down of his more obvious aspects.

Can he detach himself from himself? Can he stand aside from his own passions, and outside his own emotions?

The Buddhist text, Visuddhi Magga, declares there is Nirvana but no one who realizes it, that there is a way but not he who goes thereby.

Although we may grant the fact that it is the ego which is seeking truth, we must insist on the completing truth that the ego is never the finder of truth.

It is not the person who brings God down to a level with himself, or lifts himself up to a level with God. The ego goes when God comes.

Results of dethroning ego

The deep realization of the unreality of ego leads at once to sudden enlightenment. But only if this realization is maintained can the enlightenment become more than a glimpse.

Although the price of attainment, which is the gradual giving up of the lower self, is agonizing because the lower one is the only self we know ordinarily, there is for every such surrender a compensation equal in value at least to what is given up, and actually of more surpassing worth. This compensation is not only a theoretical one, it is a real experience; and at the last, when the whole of the lesser self is surrendered, the only description of it which mere words can give is blissful peace. Since agony of mind cannot coexist with peace, the agony falls away and only the peace remains. The warning must be given, however, that the Higher Self never yields its compensations until the requisite surrender is made. If this is done little by little, which is usually the only way it can be done, then the lovely compensation will follow also little by little.

"How can we carry on with our daily lives without the `I' consciousness?" is a natural and common question. The first answer, and certainly the best one, is supplied by the personal experience of those who have done it in the past and are doing it today. Their testimony to its factuality is worth more than the theoretical objections to its possibility. Think of the great or celebrated names which proffer such testimony, of Jesus and Buddha in Asia, of Eckhart and Boehme in Europe, and of Emerson in America! And there are other names which I know, of men who lived in our own century but who lived obscurely, unknown to all but a tiny handful of seekers--men whom my own line of destiny fortunately crossed and happily tangled with in the period of my wide research. The second answer to the question of possibility is contained in the ordinary experience of awaking from the night's sleep. It is perfectly possible then to carry on with daily living without the consciousness of the self which prevailed in dreams. That self was different from the waking one since he holds thoughts and does things that the latter would never do. It certainly existed, but the morning showed it to be an illusory ego. In exactly the same way, illumination acts as an awakening and shows the everyday consciousness of self to be illusory, too. And just as we no longer need the dream ego to carry on the waking activities, so the illumined man no longer needs the waking ego to carry on his activities.

To the extent that he gets rid of the ego's dominance, he gets rid of self-consciousness, with its vanity or shyness, its nervousness or anxiety.

When the ego has dwindled away into nothingness, the Overself takes over.

Not until the ego is completely deflated and falls into the Void will he know, feel, and fully realize the blissfulness of salvation.

As a highly personal "I" competing against other "I"s, there can be only endless friction and intermittent anxiety. As impersonal I-ness, dwelling in the eternal Now, there are none to compete against and nothing even to compete for.

The selfish interests, which prompt man's action or guide his reflections, are destroyed root and branch in this vast transformation which attends entry into the Overself's life.

A correspondent wrote concerning an experience during meditation: "It was wonderful not to be limited to the personal self--joyful, peaceful, secure, satisfied. It was a revelation that this feeling of "I"-ness which makes one think one is the personal self comes from Reality itself but narrowly restricted down. It is this restriction that must be thrown off, not the I-ness feeling, and then the kingdom of heaven is found."

The ego in him which thinks the "I" must be rooted out. It will be followed by the Overself, which neither thinks discursively nor identifies itself with the outer person whom the world considers him to be.

The degree of ego-attachment which you will find at the centre of a man's consciousness is a fairly reliable index to the degree of his spiritual evolution.

The egoistic way of viewing life is a narrowing one. It keeps him from what is best, holds him down to what is base, and prevents him from working with the miraculous forces of the Overself. The farther he moves himself away from it and the nearer he moves into the impersonal and cosmic way, the sooner will he receive the benediction of more wisdom, better health, smoother relationships, and grander character.

In comparison with the ocean-depth of egolessness, altruism is shallow and charity is superficial.

Where the advancement has gone so far that the whole person has been unified, the ego has no chance of influencing the mind; but where it has not it will try to do so, will put forward its point of view, but will be rejected.

When he can look at his life-experience as something that seems to happen to somebody else, he will have a sure sign of detachment.

When he can release himself from the ego's tyranny and relate himself to the Overself's guidance, an entirely new life will open up for him.

Everything seems lost to a man when he surrenders his own personal will deep in his heart to the higher self, when he abandons his personal aims, wishes, and purposes at its bidding. Yet the truth is that only then is everything gained.

The same nature which, filled with ego, is such an ugly sight, becomes, when purified of it and reflecting the Overself's presence, a beautiful one.

He who can get outside his own ego, and leave it behind, can get to Truth.

To nullify the ego is the only way to perceive and identify his real being.

The ego collapses at this point; the weight of his burden has proved too heavy. Not only does pride go but also certitude.

When a man wakes up to the discovery that his desire to teach others may only be another form of personal ambition, he may, like Saint Thomas Aquinas, stop entirely. But with the birth of true humility he may do the one or the other.

When the personal ego is put in its place, not allowed to dominate, when it becomes the ruled and not the ruler--and further, when meditation aligns it with the Overself and knowledge keeps it there--when finally application brings it into the day's activity, then inner directives guide the man, inner harmony gives him peace of mind. Unpleasant happenings will not be allowed to disturb this mental evenness, nor untoward ones allowed to upset his feelings.

Remove the concept of the ego from a man and you remove the solid ground from beneath his feet. A yawning abyss seems to open up under him. It gives the greatest fright of his life, accompanied by feelings of utter isolation and dreadful insecurity. He will then clamour urgently for the return of his beloved ego and return to safety once more--unless his determination to attain truth is so strong and so exigent that he can endure the ordeal, survive the test, and hold on until the Overself's light irradiates the abyss.

The illusion of the ego stands behind all other illusions. If it is removed, they too will be removed.

The unawakened ego submits passively to the lower influences which come to it out of the shadows of its own long past and to the sense-stirring suggestions which come to it out of the surroundings in which it moves. But when it has found and surrendered to the Overself in the heart, this blind, mechanical responsiveness comes to an end and an aroused, enlightened, fully aware, inner rulership replaces it.

Only when a man is dispossessed of his ego's rule and repossessed by the Overself's can he really attain that goodness about which he may have dreamed often but reflected seldom.

The test of spirituality is not to be found in how long a man can sit still in meditation, but in how well he has denied his ego.

It is said that in nirvikalpa samadhi time is brought to a standstill. Obviously this can only happen when the ego is temporarily paralysed. Ramana Maharshi used to say that the ego is nothing but a bundle of thoughts and does not exist by itself as a separate entity. Nirvikalpa, being the thought-free state and involving the suspension of the movement of thought, is therefore the suspension of the movement of time in the ego's consciousness.

In the hour when the ego falls away from us, there is a feeling of a heavy burden being dropped, a sense of release from a condition now seen to be undesirable. This is naturally followed by a quiet satisfying joy.

When ego is absent, a precondition for Overself to be present exists.

With this release from ego there comes a sense of exhilaration.

If he could get the ego to withdraw from his motives and calculations and purposes and impulsions, how could his acts be other than righteous ones?

To the degree that we loose ourselves from the ego's grip, to that degree we loose ourselves from its mental anxieties and emotional agitations. As its power wanes, our care-free peace waxes.

When, and thus also, because of distracted attention, we are wholly absorbed in watching a cinema picture to the extent that we forget ourself and our personal affairs, the ego temporarily disappears and ceases to exist for us. This too means, if it means anything at all, that the ego exists only by virtue of its existence in our consciousness. If we exercise ourself in withdrawing attention from the ego, not to bestow it upon a cinema picture but to bestow it upon our own inner being, we may succeed in getting behind the ego and discovering the Witness-self.

You will lose nothing but your littleness. You will not disintegrate into utter unconsciousness.

If he will have the courage to let the ego-illusion die out, a new and real life will come to birth within his being.

What really happened to Descartes when he lost himself in deep meditation whilst walking the quays of Amsterdam and had to be led home to his lodging? He forgot his personal identity.

The automatic, constant, and undisciplined thought-movement comes at last to an end. It is the central part of the ego which has surrendered.

The man whose ego is under control will not give his mind to the effect which he has on those with whom he comes into contact, will not be troubled by his nerves.

He brings his personality into his thoughts and acts, as everyone does; but even in the next and higher stage, where he becomes a spectator of that personality, it still happens, although in a subtler and diminished way. There is a further stage where ego becomes entirely subservient and consciousness is centered on a still deeper level.

Take away the thoughts and feelings, including the body-thought and the specific I-feeling, and you take away the whole basis of man's personal existence. It is indeed the only mode of his life that he can conceive. After all, the personality is only a series of continuous thoughts, strongly held and centered around a particular body. He who can win the power to free himself from all thoughts, wins the power to free himself from the personal "I"-thoughts. Only such a man has really obeyed Jesus' injunction to lose his life. For what other life has man ordinarily than the personal one? But Jesus also promised a certain reward for successful obedience. He said that such a person would "save" his life. What does this mean? When the thoughts lapse and the finited personality goes, will the man be bereft of all consciousness? No--he will still possess pure consciousness, the deeper life that supports the finited self and sustains its very thoughts.

The Notebooks are copyright © 1984-1989, The Paul Brunton Philosophic Foundation.