One cannot get rid of one's apparent ego by throwing stones at it as if it were an importunate cur. It will only go when one comes to understand that it isn't there.


Swami Siddheswarananda points out that when we dream we perceive ourselves doing something. This dream-ego thinks he perceives what appears to be taking place, but it is really We who perceive both the dream-ego and what appears to be taking place. The dream-ego is a part of the scenario, of what appears to be happening, of the dream, and is neither more nor less real than any other element therein.

Our waking-ego is no different. Our waking ego thinks he perceives everything that appears to be taking place, and attributes to himself the independent position of spectator, but he too is merely a part of what appears to be happening, of the scenario of daily life, and is neither more nor less real than any other element therein.

It is only the real 'I' that is the Spectator, and that 'I' is intemporal.

We imagine that waking-life is real and that dream-life is unreal, but there does not seem to be any evidence for this belief. Chuang Tzu, in the third century B.C., put it in an amusing way; having dreamed that he was a butterfly flitting from flower to flower, he stated that he was now wondering whether he was then a man dreaming he was a butterfly or whether he was now a butterfly dreaming he was a man.

Does it not seem that of the two experiences dream-life is likely to contain more of reality than waking-life? Dream-life appears to be quadridimensional whereas waking-life is only tridimensional. The apparent oddity of dream-life to the waking mind (it does not appear odd to the dreamer) is probably due to the fact that the dream has to be translated into tridimensional terms in order to be remembered - and usually only bits are translated. We can only remember tridimensionally. As far as can be judged, both experiences appear equally real when they are taking place.

The outstanding psychologists have laid bare the symbolic character of dreams, but they can only interpret what they have understood in tridimensional terminology: it could never be possible to restore to a dream its original quadridimensional nature, for we have no means of conceiving that nature with the mechanism of our three-dimensional minds.

The Indian philosophers looked to dreamless sleep to find a contact with Reality, but there does not appear to be any evidence that such a state in fact exists or is other than a metaphysical concept. Is it indeed necessary to posit such a state? May not the normal dream-state, as we live it and not as we subsequently interpret it, imply contact with a much less relative reality than any we know, if not with Reality itself?

Leaving aside this dualistic approach; from the point of view of unicity the Spectator and the Spectacle, the dream-world, the waking-world, and the observer thereof, are one and the same. Perhaps one might say that they may be regarded as the Spectator looking at Himself analytically.

Aspects of Not-Being ... 2

Dr. Herbert Benoit explains that there is no more reason to suppose that we choose a cravat than there is to suppose that it is the cravat that chooses us. Although this statement strikes some people as amusing and original it is, in fact, implicit in our normal habit of speech. Who does not say, 'I was attracted by that cravat'? But in that encounter the speaker was the passive element and the cravat the active: the cravat exercised attraction and the speaker suffered attraction. In short the cravat chose the speaker.

To say 'This tie chose me' is to say the same thing as 'This tie attracted me', but to say, 'This tie bought me' is to introduce an operation in which the tie did not in fact actively participate. Were I to say to a waiter, sitting down to dinner in a restaurant, 'I want to be eaten by a spring-chicken this evening', a similar incongruity would be introduced although the same essential truth would underlie it.

Such statements are sometimes considered to be 'Zen', but one may wonder whether there is any necessary connection between Zen and paradox.

Action and Non-Action ... 2

'Mad monkeys.'
It is said in the East that 'La maladie des occidentaux est le travail'. We may prefer to say that superfluous activity is the sickness of the West. For, all things considered, a very great proportion of what we call 'work' is ultimately unnecessary.

We are obsessed with the importance of Doing, much of which goes by the name of 'work' - somewhat euphemistically no doubt. This obsession has been increasing in intensity for many decades, and now is an artcle de foi. It is taken as a matter of course that everyone must 'do' something always and all the time. It is regarded as a virtue, and its non-observance as a vice. The average person, without thinking (for he rarely thinks of such things), attributes merit to his fellows, and particularly to the young, in ratio to their activity. But at least fifty percent of the activities in question are futile even to us and probably about nine-tenths are, ultimately considered, superfluous. It is doubtful if more than a very small percentage are either fundamentally necessary or beneficial.

For Doing is an avoidance, an escape, a running-away from Reality.

Such a statement will seem outrageous to the present generation, but one can safely say that it would appear a platitude to Lao Tzu if he should happen to read it.

This attitude of the present generation is based on the tacit assumption that material things are not only real but beneficial. If one should be able to perceive that they are neither - the view of Lao Tzu will rapidly become obvious.

To the average man or woman there is no alternative to Doing but Idleness. If that were so it might be difficult to decide which of the alternatives should be preferred. Since both are probably futile there may be nothing to choose between them, although Idleness would seem to be relatively innocuous.

But should not the alternative to Doing rather be regarded as Being?

Metaphysically this appears to be a ternary proposition: the opposites, Doing and Idleness, achieving their synthesis in Being. Being is the apex of the triangle wherein the dualistic bases, Doing and Idleness, become absorbed in Unicity. Behind Action and Inaction lies Non-Action, which manifests in them.

But normally we do not know how to Be. If we did know how to Be all our activity would be necessary action (work in its pure sense) and all our passivity would be not idleness but dynamic inaction.

The sensation approaching terror that modern men and women experience when faced with the possibility of having nothing to 'do' is probably a fear of finding nothing between their relative ego and their real ego which is absolute. Doing - work and distraction (distraction from what?) - constitute a screen between the apparent 'I' and the real 'I'. Were they to come face to face with the latter the whole false facade of their illusory personality would collapse like a house of cards, they would be naked and humbled, conscious of their nullity - and they are unprepared to understand that therein lies serenity and liberation. The apparent void is a plenitude.

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The concept just referred to as the relative ego and placed in opposition to the real ego is open to criticism from several angles, but there is as yet no exact terminology in these matters. Indeed exact terminology in the expression of that which cannot be expressed will always be difficult. Truth, when expressed, thereby ceases to be truth, and Reality can only be distorted into words.

In the first place there is only the real ego, and that is universal Mind, the relative ego being a distorted aspect of that. In the second place the relative ego is a percept of which the average man or woman is only aware as the nucleus round which has gathered the perfectly illusory complex of his or her personality. The relative ego, a pure percept like any other 'thing', is representative of a segment, of part of a whole, and devoid of any kind of evaluation. What a man regards as his ego is his interpretation of that, based on his collection of memories of reactions to his environment, no longer a percept but an affective concept, a false evaluation (false because an evaluation) that is entirely illusory.

It is in order to sustain this illusory complex, that he thinks is 'himself', that he feels obliged eternally to 'do' and to urge others to 'do', that is to behave as what the orientals refer to as a 'mad monkey', and it is from fear of the destruction of this illusory personality that he dare not face up to his real self in silence and the awareness of Being.

Note: Relative reality is only metaphorically 'distorted': less inaccurately it might be described as an unrepresentative fragment, segment, or deputy. Call it a stooge if you will. A formal representation of the Informal might be likened to an algebraic sign - which represents something that it in no way resembles.

Reality and the Ego ... 2

Referring to the first note on REALITY AND THE EGO (Ch. 3), it might be worth while pointing out that in more technical language political, ethical, and social notions are in fact interpretive evaluations, similar to those that constitute the illusory aspect of our relative ego. 'Things in themselves', i.e. relative reality, are pure precepts, but as soon as we attribute qualities to them, evaluate them, they become affective concepts and as such are perfectly illusory.

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Cause and effect may not be two things separated in time but one whole thing in reality.

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Neither Subjective nor Objective

It has been pointed out above that the ego is not the Spectator of the Spectacle, but can there be a Spectacle without a Spectator to make it a spectacle?

If there is no 'I' there is no observer, but can there be an observed? Logically there cannot be an observer without something observed, nor something observed without an observer.

There can be no Subject without an Object, nor an Object without a Subject, for each depends upon (is relative to) the other and exists as a function of the other.

In Reality the two are one. And so they are said to become in realisation. That would seem to be what is meant by passing beyond subjectivity and objectivity.

The Phenomenal Self and the Illusory Self

A man without a false-ego would be like a hedgehog without bristles, but a man without an ego would be like a log of wood or a jellyfish - if he did not simply fall to pieces.

Every conscious being must have an ego. Every unity has a centre, its rallying-point; the solar system and the atom have their nuclei, around which their elements are grouped. Far from being something superfluous, of which we should rid ourselves, it is the essential factor of the organism, as the heart is of the physical body.

When one attacks the 'egoism' of somebody one is guilty of a misuse of words: it is not his ego that is insufferable but his 'illusory self'. The ego belongs to so-called relative-Reality. It may be masked by the fictitious 'me', but itself is a functional necessity.

The ego, or nucleus of centrifugal and centripetal forces, which should be regarded as an aspect of Reality, can be the subject of pure, instantaneous perception, but the interpretation that our mind gives to this perception transforms it into an element of the illusory self.

'The Tathagata declares that Characteristics are not Characteristics' (Diamond Sutra XIV)

Is Humility anything but the result of a diminution of the power of the fictitious-self? Is it not in fact a function of the degree of consciousness, or of the sensation, of self? This being so, it does not exist as a quality: it is only an evaluation.

To seek humility as a thing-in-itself is absurd.

All forms of discipline, oriental (yoga) or occidental, only attack symptoms and could only have a superficial and temporary effect - like a febrifuge against typhoid-fever.

Our spiritual misery has but one basis, and there is only one treatment for it: its cause is the illusory self, and the treatment consists in realising that that does not exist.

However, intellectual recognition is not enough.

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After all, the 'me' is our own creation; it is not imposed upon us from without; it is created by our reactions to everything that happens to us.

Reality and Relativity

The expression 'Relative-Reality', although accepted, appears to be nonsense. How could Reality be relative? By definition it is unconditioned. That being so, it would seem better squarely to accept the contradiction and to speak, rather, of 'conditioned Reality'.

The element of relativity applies to our interpretation and to nothing else. Our perception or our comprehension of Reality (as of everything) can be relative, but not the object of our perception or of our comprehension.

We can have a pure perception of an aspect of Reality, of a partial, that is to say phenomenal, presentation of Reality, but we cannot perceive either Reality Itself or any reality relative to It.

Reality does not admit of an adjective. Even 'phenomenal Reality' is nonsense. There can only be a 'phenomenal aspect of Reality'. The composite term 'Reality-phenomenon', meaning 'Reality perceived as phenomenon', alone seems to be adequate, but, for those who understand, the word 'Reality' here is already superfluous.


As Ouspensky tells us: on the noumenal plane, the plane of Reality, multi-dimensional, Time exists spatially, and temporal events exist - they don't happen. 'Effects' co-exist with their 'causes', and moments of different epochs exist simultaneously and contiguously. Points far apart in tridimensional space can touch one another, proximity and separation become affinity and repulsion, sympathy and antipathy. There is neither matter nor movement. Nothing is dead, nothing is unconscious. If that is what he said, need he have said anything else?

(© RKP, 1958)

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