Sunday, September 7, 2014

More on the ego

Continuing from this post, here is Epstein's article "The deconstruction of the self: ego and 'egolessness' in Buddhist insight meditation." An excerpt from the introductory paragraphs:

"The tendency of contemporary theorists has been to propose developmental schema in which meditation systems develop 'beyond the ego,' yet this approach has ignored aspects of the ego which are not abandoned and which are, in fact, developed through meditation practice itself. [...] Meditation can be seen as operating in different ways on many distinctive facets of the ego, promoting change and development within the ego, rather than beyond it. This view requires that the ego be understood as a complex and sophisticated matrix of structures, functions and representations, rather than as a single entity that could be readily abandoned. It recognizes the indispensability of the ego while at the same time revealing how meditation practice can uniquely modify it, producing an ego no longer obsessed with its own solidity" (61-2).

And Wilber from Integral Psychology (Shambhala, 2000) on the different aspects of ego, and what is transcended and included or replaced in its stages:

"There is persistent confusion in the literature about whether, for example, the ego is retained or lost in higher development. Most transpersonal researchers refer to the higher stages as being 'beyond ego' or 'transegoic,' which seems to imply the ego is lost. But this confusion is almost entirely semantic. If by ego you mean the exclusive identification with the personal self, then that exclusiveness is almost entirely lost or dissolved in higher development. [...] But if by ego you mean a functional self that relates to the conventional world, then that ego is definitely retained (and almost always strengthened). Likewise, if you mean--as psychoanalysis does--that an important part of the ego is its capacity for detached witnessing [my emphasis], then that ego is definitely retained (and almost always strengthened). [...] Also, if by ego you mean--as ego psychology does--the psyche's capacity for integrating, then that ego is also retained and strengthened. In short, the exclusiveness of an identity with a given self (bodyego, persona, centaur, soul) is dissolved or released with each higher stage of self growth, but the important functional capacities of each are retained, incorporated (holarchically), and often strengthened in succeeding stages" (91).

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