Chapter 4: The Root of All Evil
II. The Ego and False Autonomy
1 You have asked lately how the mind could ever have made the ego. This is a perfectly reasonable question; in fact, the best question you could ask. There is, however, no point in giving an historical answer because the past does not matter in human terms, and history would not exist if the same errors were not being repeated in the present.
Abstract thought applies to knowledge because knowledge is completely impersonal, and examples are irrelevant to its understanding. Perception, however, is always specific, and therefore quite concrete.
2 Each man makes one ego for himself, although it is subject to enormous variation because of its instability, and one for everyone he perceives, which is equally variable. Their interaction is a process which literally alters both, because they were not made either by or with the unalterable.
It is particularly important to realize that this alteration can and does occur as readily when the interaction takes place in the mind as when it involves physical presence. Thinking about another ego is as effective in changing relative perception as is physical interaction. There could be no better example of the fact that the ego is an idea, though not a reality‐based thought.
3 Your own present state is a good example of how the mind made the ego. You do have knowledge at times, but when you throw it away it is as if you never had it. This willfulness is so apparent that one need only perceive it to see that it does happen. If it can occur that way in the present, why is it surprising that it occurred that way in the past?
Psychology rests on the principle of the continuity of behavior. Surprise is a reasonable response to the unfamiliar, but hardly to something that has occurred with such persistence. I am using your present state of how the mind can work, provided you fully recognize that it need not work that way. Why are you surprised that something happened in the dim past when it is so clearly happening right now?
4 You forget the love that animals have for their own offspring, and the need they feel to protect them. This is because they regard them as part of themselves. No one disowns something he regards as a very real part of himself. Man reacts to his ego much as God does to His Souls;‐ with love, protection and great charity. The reaction of man to the self he made is not at all surprising. In fact it duplicates, in many ways, how he will one day react to his real creations, which are as timeless as he is. The question is not how man responds to his ego, but what he believes he is.
5 Belief is an ego function, and as long as your origin is open to belief at all, you are regarding it from an ego viewpoint. When teaching is no longer necessary, you will merely know God. Belief
that there is another way is the loftiest idea of which ego thinking is capable. That is because it contains a hint of recognition that the ego is not the self. Undermining the egoʹs thought system must be
perceived as painful, even though this is anything but true. Babies scream in rage if you take away a knife or a scissors, even though they may well harm themselves if you do not. The speed‐up has
placed you in the same position.
6 You are not prepared, and in this sense you are babies. You have no sense of real self‐preservation, and are very likely to decide that you need precisely what would hurt you most. Whether you know it now or not, however, you have willed to cooperate in a concerted and very commendable effort to become both harmless and helpful, two attributes which must go together. Your attitudes, even toward this, are necessarily conflicted because all attitudes are ego‐based. This will not last. Be patient awhile, and remember that the outcome is as certain as God.
7 Only those who have a real and lasting sense of abundance can be truly charitable. This is quite obvious when you consider the concepts involved. To the ego, to give anything implies that you will do without it. When you associate giving with sacrifice, then, you give only because you believe that you are somehow getting something better, so that you can do without the thing you give. “Giving to get” is an inescapable law of the ego, which always evaluates itself in relation to other egos, and is therefore continually preoccupied with the scarcity principle which gave rise to it. This is the meaning of Freudʹs “reality principle,” since Freud thought of the ego as very weak and deprived, capable of functioning only as a thing in need.
8 The “reality principle” of the ego is not real at all. The ego is forced to perceive the “reality” of other egos because it cannot establish the reality of itself. In fact, its whole perception of other egos as real is only an attempt to convince itself that it is real. “Self esteem,” in ego terms, means nothing more than that the ego has deluded itself into accepting its reality, and is therefore temporarily less predatory. This “self esteem” is always vulnerable to stress, a term which actually refers to a condition in which the delusion of the egoʹs reality is threatened. This produces either ego deflation or ego inflation, resulting in either withdrawal or attack.
9 The ego literally lives by comparisons. This means that equality is beyond its grasp, and charity becomes impossible. The ego never gives out of abundance, because it was made as a substitute for it. That is why the concept of “getting” arose in the egoʹs thought system. All appetites are “getting” mechanisms, representing the egoʹs need to confirm itself. This is as true of bodily appetites as it is of the so‐called “higher” ego needs.
Bodily appetites are not physical in origin. The ego regards the body as its home and does try to satisfy itself through the body, but the idea that this is possible is a decision of the ego, which is completely confused about what is really possible. This accounts for its erratic nature.
10 The ego believes it is completely on its own, which is merely another way of describing how it originated. This is such a fearful state that it can only turn to other egos and try to unite with them in a feeble attempt at identification, or attack them in an equally feeble show of strength.
It is not free, however, to consider the validity of the premise itself because this premise is its foundation. The ego is the belief of the mind that it is completely on its own. Its ceaseless attempts to gain the Soulʹs acknowledgment, and thus to establish its own existence, are utterly useless.
11 The Soul in its knowledge is unaware of the ego. It does not attack it; it merely cannot conceive of it at all. While the ego is equally unaware of the Soul, it does perceive itself as rejected by “something” which is greater than itself. This is why self‐esteem in ego terms must be a delusion. The creations of God do not create myths, although the creative efforts of man can turn to mythology. It can do so, however, only under one condition; what man then makes is no longer creative. Myths are entirely perceptions, and are so ambiguous in form and so characteristically good and evil in nature that the most benevolent of them is not without fearful components, if only by innuendo.
12 Myths and magic are closely associated in that myths are usually related to the ego origins, and magic to the powers which the ego ascribes to itself. Every mythological system includes some account of “the creation,” and associates this with its particular perception of magic. The “battle for survival” is nothing more than the egoʹs struggle to preserve itself and its interpretation of its own beginning. This beginning is always associated with physical birth, because no one maintains that the ego existed before that point in time. The religiously ego‐oriented believe that the Soul existed before and will continue to exist afterwards, after a temporary lapse in ego life. Some actually believe that the Soul will be punished for this lapse, even though in reality, it could not possibly know anything about it.
13 The term “salvation” does not apply to the Soul, which is not in danger, and does not need to be salvaged. Salvation is nothing more than “right‐mindedness,” which is not the One‐Mindedness of the Soul, but which must be accomplished before One‐Mindedness can be restored. Right‐mindedness dictates the next step automatically because right perception is uniformly without attack, so that wrong‐mindedness is obliterated. The ego cannot survive without judgment, and is laid aside accordingly. The mind then has only one direction in which it can move. The direction which the mind will take is always automatic, because it cannot but be dictated by the thought system to which the mind adheres.
14 Every thought system has internal consistency, and this provides the basis for the continuity of behavior. However, this is a matter of reliability, and not validity. “Reliable behavior” is a meaningful perception, as far as ego thinking goes. However, “valid behavior” is an expression which is inherently contradictory, because validity is an end and behavior is a means. These cannot be combined logically because, when an end has been attained, the means for its attainment are no longer meaningful.
15 A hypothesis is either false or true, to be accepted or rejected accordingly. If it is shown to be true it becomes a fact, after which no one attempts to evaluate it unless its status as fact is questioned. Every idea to which the ego has accorded the status of fact is questionable, because facts are in the realm of knowledge.
16 Confusing realms of discourse is a thinking error which philosophers have recognized for centuries. Psychologists are generally quite deficient in this respect, as are many theologians. Data from one realm of discourse do not mean anything in another because they can be understood only within the thought system of which they are a part. That is why psychologists are concentrating increasingly on the ego, in an attempt to unify their clearly unrelated data. It need hardly be said that an attempt to relate the unrelated cannot succeed.
17 The more recent ecological emphases are but another ingenious way of trying to impose order on chaos. We have already credited the ego with considerable ingenuity, though not with creativeness. It should, however, be remembered that inventiveness is really wasted effort, even in its most ingenious forms. We do not have to explain anything. This is why we need not trouble ourselves with inventiveness. The highly specific nature of invention is not worthy of the abstract creativity of Godʹs creations.
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