— The MoonQuest: A True Fantasy
"Death to the Ego!" I've heard that war cry, so common in personal-growth circles, several times in recent days. And each time, it left me profoundly saddened.
You see, the oft-demonized ego doesn't deserve to die. No part of us deserves to die.
No part of us deserves to be dismissed...or dissed. All parts of us have value. All parts of us have worth. All parts of us are capable of growth and transformation. Of redemption.
Many writers and therapists would have you believe that the ego is some inner evil that must be cut off, stamped out and killed before we can move forward.
"Ego," I read the other day, "is the biggest — and perhaps the only — obstacle to true enlightenment. If we want to be free, if we want to be enlightened, we have to pay the price: death of the ego."
Not only is that view wrong-headed, it is damaging.
Certainly, the ego or "small self" can stand in the way of our evolution. Yet whatever else it is or does, it is still a part of our greater self, of our oneness. Of God.
God, however you define it, is made up of all the pieces of us — dark and light, evolved and not. God is not just the pieces we like or would prefer.
When we use phrases like "death of the ego," we're advocating an act of self-hatred and self-destruction that is not at all godlike.
How can we call for oneness in one breath and the destruction of a part of ourselves in the next? How can we preach love as the energy that creates and heals all when, in the same sentence, we preach hatred toward parts of ourselves?
If your arm is broken, do you cut it off because it's now a useless appendage? Or do you allow it to heal, lavishing extra love and energy upon it because of its weakened condition?
The ego is no less deserving of care and no less capable of healing and transformation.
I passionately believe that we are called to love, honor and respect all aspects of our beingness, not just the ones that behave in right/light ways.
We live in a throwaway culture, tossing out anything that's broken, a culture where imperfection is punished and misbehavior condemned. What have we become that we are now throwing away bits of ourselves?
The ego is nothing more than a terrified, lesser-developed aspect of ourselves, a child-aspect that feels threatened by change it does not understand and so resists, often disruptively.
In many ways, it's like a fearful child. We don't kill our children when they don't act in a divine manner, when they're frightened and act out. We reassure them, we hold them, we love them. We make sure they know that they're safe.
Through these compassionate, godlike acts, we gently correct their failings and contribute to their growth and evolution, and to our own.
Our call is to do the same with the ego. Speaking of killing, expelling, conquering or controlling it is the antithesis of the evolved energy we claim we are seeking to embody.
Some might respond by saying that these are only words, that nothing is really being killed.
Perhaps. But language is not random. We choose our words, and these words reveal more about what we think and feel than we often realize. If we use words like "death" and "killing," than that truly is the consciousness we are projecting.
Oneness, too, is a consciousness, one that cannot thrive outside of us if it doesn't first thrive within. And it cannot thrive within if we reject even a single part of ourselves.
Oneness is an act of integration. Preaching death to the ego is the opposite: dis-integration.
The only path to enlightenment is the path of love. And the only path of love that has any value is the path that begins with self-love, with the love of our entire self — the wounded as well as the healed, the frightened as well as the fearless, the dark as well as the light.
Loving it doesn't free it to be in charge or hold us back. It does free it to have a voice, to express its fears, to cry for help in the only ways it knows how.
That same love frees you to embrace every part of you, to welcome home the ugly, wounded, frightened prodigal-child/ego and to live the fullness of a divinity and godliness that includes all aspects of your beingness.
I believe in you, in every part of you, and I love your darkness as well as your light. Won't you do the same for yourself?
• This piece originally appeared in my now-dormant New Earth Chronicles blog. Unfortunately, it remains as relevant today as it was a few years ago, when I first wrote it.
Image: Detail from the cover of The MoonQuest (The Q'ntana Trilogy, Part 1) by Mark David Gerson