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Ego as organizing principle, and attachment to idea of I

Reading some Jung again, triggered by the alchemical images coming up in waking and sleep processes, I am reminded of the two meanings of the word ego.

One meaning is as an organizing principle for our human self. It is that which differentiates and allows this human self to function in the world. It is the operating system of this human self, in a way. This is the realm of conventional western psychology.

The other meaning comes from eastern philosophies, and also from the informal use of the word as in he has a big ego. This comes from a belief in the idea of I and a particular identity to flesh it out. From this comes a sense of I, an experience of I and Other, a sense of being different, of being better or worse than, of pushing something away and holding onto something else, of something to protect, and so on.

The psychological ego is essential for the human self to function well in the world, before and after awakening to selflessness. It needs to be mature, differentiated, well developed.

The other ego is just a sense of an I, placed on top of something inherently and already absent of an I. There is no I there, anywhere, so although this sense of I appears very real, and certainly influences how the human self operates in the world (with a great deal of drama), it is inherently innocent. Even the sense of I does not have any I in it.

So in our lives, we want to develop the psychological ego, and we may want to take a closer look at the other ego - the sense of I. What do I get from holding onto this sense of I? What are the consequences? Is there really an I there? Can I find it anywhere? Who or what would I be without it? What would I be if the content of awareness is the same, but with no I there anywhere?

We may find, as Sakyamuni Buddha did, that the source of suffering is the sense of I, that release from suffering is for the field of seeing and seen to awaken to its own nature absent of any I, and that there is a path from one to the other.

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