One of the things that my little study group appears to debate on a regular basis is the ego. Specifically, is it all bad? Or can it be, as some teachers suggest, turned into a "willing servant" of the spirit?
It seems to me we often tailspin on a matter of semantics, although my attempts to clarify terminology have never been terribly helpful. Ironically, Course In Miracles students often love to make careers over arguing about such points, instead of allowing Jesus/Holy Spirit to help us use the situation to forgive our desire to be right.
It's like we students, who suffer from a bad case of "good intentions" while our egos have us by the throat, say, in as politically correct way as we can muster ('cuz we're hoping that we won't be found out!), "Screw practicing forgiveness! Let's argue about forgiveness! My definition of forgiveness is way better than your definition of forgiveness, you, you, evil separation-lover!!"
::I must pause to LOL (laugh out loud)::
:: Wait, I must pause some more because this is really really funny...LOLOL::
:: I interrupt this post with one more pause. I thank my brothers for showing me how much I still listen to the ego's desire to be right, as though "being right" will make a limited me I still identify with whole somehow! And I also thank the Holy Spirit for showing me that I am really ready to let it go now...::
:: OH AND Hallelujah Amen! ::
Phew, that felt good!
But seriously folks...(why do I feel like I'm beginning to channel Rodney Dangerfield?)
No really. Seriously. *ehem*
My deepening with this material -- and my development of Trust -- seemed to occur as I could start to embrace what the Course says very unequivocally about the ego and the world. Ego is a term The Course uses to mean a total thought system based on separation that resulted from "a tiny made idea at which the Son of God remembered not to laugh." It does not mean the more benign psychological connotation, such as a set of individual personality traits. There is nothing good about the ego thought system. At its essence, it is a death wish, an attempt to be separate from All That Is and, basically, replay the separation from/murder of God over and over and over.
The ego is not able to be turned into a servant of the Spirit, because it cannot know, listen to, or communicate with the Truth/Spirit at all. It's like the daylight trying to have a conversation with the nighttime...when the sun shows up, the night is just plain gone, poofed, undone.
If Spirit told the ego-servant to go get it a cup of coffee, ego wouldn't hear the order. Nor can the Spirit-master actually ask for the cup of coffee from the ego-servant, because the Spirit can only recognize the Truth. Spirit doesn't take our ego and make it into something nicer and kinder and more docile. It doesn't help us learn to "make friends" with the ego, as some say. If Spirit were to see the ego, it would be an acknowledgement of what never happened. It would make the error "real."
It would be you -- as a crazy mom or mental-case dad -- somehow jumping into your kid's nightmare and helping him hide from the scary bear. You'd be reinforcing that the bear threat is real and your kid's fear is justified, instead of gently and lovingly waking him up from his disturbed sleep that was full of made-up stories that don't matter. The Holy Spirit stays in the mind reflecting only the Truth to us. That's it.
At our study group, occasionally it's like the ego grabs a chair and jumps in at the first opportune moment to bait us all with whatever weakness we still have. In this case, perhaps we each have some kind of sacred cow or precious story we can't give up around the term "ego." Since it knows you can never prove a negative, the ego at the table says, "Prove I am not able to be a willing servant!" And off on round #112 we go to defend our positions... *DING DING DING*
In my experience, teams seem to form as people seem to take sides, and I sometimes feel there's been no true communication at the end of our circular chatter. That's when my ego wins a temporary victory, while the Truth waits patiently for me to seek it out.
When I'm ready for Peace, and I ask the Holy Spirit for guidance on who is right, He says predictably:
"What was the question? I don't hear any question. No one has actually asked any question."
(He's hinting here at the hidden ego motives buried in the conflict, which boil down to being right and making someone else wrong, and thus keeping our separated me-ness real. Damn--the Holy Spirit is clearly on to me/us!)
"However, if you'd like to ask me to help you see this mirror of your mind a different way so you can tune into Truth, go for it! I'm sitting here able, willing, and ready to remind you that your brothers are innocent and that all that has happened is that you have stepped away from Me, because you took the ego bait, and were trying to secretly get back to the business of judging. But there's only one mind, remember? So No Secrets! But you are innocent too, even if you are mistaken. So fire away! I'm all ears! I can't wait! "
"Oh, and hey..."
Holy Spirit: "Go lighter on yourself, k?"
I'm reminded, over and over and over, there certainly is no way to Truth through satisfying the egoic need to be right. And there is really no way to Peace through study or careful clarification of terms, although sometimes these seem to be steps we take.
But are they necessary? For me, maybe. For everyone else? Nope.
Some people who don't know anything about any terms or gurus or spiritual texts, but who are sick of suffering and want a better way, seem to be just waking up right and left -- in their bedroom one day for no apparent reason... or when they see a cockroach crawl over their foot... or when they have a motor scooter accident.... or when they hear the right words at just the right time and their mind pops open...or..or..or..the paths that people seem to be taking are infinite!
Now I can hear you (since you speak my mind), and you need to stop that train of thought right now. Yes, it would be easy to compare ourselves (an ego ploy!) with all those "spontaneously getting it" folks. We could get all mopey about being seemingly gradual Path-ers, but let's not. There is divinity in the Plan, and, besides, only an ego argues with what is. Or thinks it can possibly make a meaningful comparison! Or worries that time -- even the time it takes to let go of the idea of time -- is real!
So for us, the Inner Teacher always come back to remind all who ask that applying forgiveness in our mind is the only Wake Up game in town.
I'm sure this little personal study group story illustrates a common occurrence within, and the real purpose of, study groups! I am also sure that the miracles we experience together (after 5 years together we know each other well) are a result of allowing all this nothingness to surface.
Still, if I may play Semantics Hall Monitor for a moment more, what my friends state is true, if we slightly tweak the terminology. The ego is death, but the forms it created -- being nothing -- are neutral. So our personalities and everything else in the world can become willing-servant-Holy-Spirit-coffee-fetchers.
For anyone interested, I'll leave you with what my Dear Teacher Friend David Hoffmeister, a very helpful teacher of ACIM, has to say on the purpose of the ego. Enjoy.