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So, what is Self and Ego?
Put simply, it is “I”.
But this ineffable experience we know to be “I” has two aspects: potentiality and actuality. The “I” of potentiality is the larger, more universal aspect; the individual actualization of this potential is more unique and personal. Hence, Self can be considered the subject of the unconscious, and Ego the subject of desire, intellectual activity, and conscious experience. These are not two different subjects, but they are two different experiences of “I”. Self is “I” as the human spirit, who is present in desire and all manner of experiences, while Ego is the conscious and active dimension of “I” in this embodied state. When one consciously realizes this connection between Self and Ego, then the Ego loses its sense of alienation and isolation and begins to experience the social, cosmic, transcendent and holistic qualities of Self.
Because of our false self conditioning, however, our awareness of this connection between Self in Ego can be so terribly distorted that the Egoic “I” does not know from whence it comes, and so it attaches to all manner of things within and without the person in an attempt to complete itself. “I” can then become lost in the convoluted activities of the mind and emotions, becoming, instead, a “me,” or object of my own mental activity. In such cases (and they are legion), then “I” am not merely shaped by my experiences, but determined by them. They are not “mine,” but “me.” Excessive self- definition and judgmentalism follow from the creation of this mind- self, which is not-”I”.
And what of God? Is God “I”?
No, God is not “I”. Rather, God is the “Am” in which “I” affirm the fact of my existence: “I Am.” This “Am”, or pure Being, is utterly distinct from “I”, for “I” cannot, of its own accord, know anything more about It than the fact that “It Is.” And yet Being is also the source of “I”; apart from It, “I” has no existence, no “Am.” Something of Existence must therefore be present within “I”, for It is the means by which “I” has its own being. “I” cannot extract Existence from itself, however, so “I” can never know what it is apart from Existence. Through the “I” in every person, then, something of the glory and numinosity of Existence Itself shines forth. Those who are awake to their own “I” know this truth, but those who have lost themselves in the disordered mental activity stirred up by the false self are asleep to the wonder of Existence.