Saturday, February 18, 2012

The False Dilemma

Scott Bradley

I awoke this morning to the realization that the 'I' which presently speaks is the egoic self. This is not an uncommon experience; in fact, should I happen on any given morning to reflect on the question of who's in charge here, it is never other than that it is the egoic self. Perhaps you have a similar experience.

This being the case, there is nothing I will do today, including composing this post, which will not be an egoic activity. If ego is a great satan, then this casts a rather dismal pall across the whole spectrum of the day's prospects. Alas, another day of emersion in evil.

But I do not subscribe to this understanding of ego as demonic any more than I consider a cougar evil because it kills and eats bambi. It is a given of my existence as human and is, therefore, 'good'. Unlike the cougar, however, I am capable of aspiring to another way of being in the world.

Yet this aspiration must necessarily be itself egoic. So be it. Since there is no other way for me to be in the world this day, this is how I am going to be in it. And I affirm it. Thankfully.

But in affirming egoic existence I do not necessarily unconditionally surrender into its maw; there is something else at work here. And that something is the larger view which recognition of the egoic enables. It is not that one escapes the egoic thereby, but one is nonetheless able to in some sense be larger than the merely egoic. It is not that I have ceased to be egoic, but that in being aware of this egoicity I am able to be more than it.

I am consequentially able to moderate the expression of ego in me. I am able to approximate another way of being in the world. This is self-cultivation in the sphere of the actual. It is evolution, not revolution.

If there is, in fact, true liberation from the egoic, then I share the opinion that it must be a revolutionary event. It must be what Buddhism describes as a 'turning-about' at the core of one's being. It is a polar shift beyond the auspices of mere self-cultivation, which is to say, it cannot be made to happen.

Nevertheless, should such a revolution take place, it will be seen in retrospect that self-cultivation somehow prepared the ground. Once again, we see two roads open before us, and we realize that we need not, indeed should not, choose between them, but rather must walk them both simultaneously.

Thus will this day be one of self-awareness and adventure. Albeit, egoic.

You can check out Scott's other miscellaneous writings here.


  1. It is relevant that we often talk about "taming," "subduing" or even "transcending" the ego in spiritual pursuits. Self-control.

    I have to say I am one of those people who find "egoic" a sort of creepy made-up word, probably by new-agey spiritual types, (although I see it also comes out of certain philosophical writings). Hence the definition:

    "The state of being identified with the ego, the power which seeks to defend and glorify the separate and separated self, works for separation, unhealthy autonomy, or dogged independence, and works to obscure or destroy the Divine self."

  2. isn't saying the ego does anything like saying that the brand of a car makes its wheels spin or the breed of the dog gives its hunger.

    I don't see how the ego can drive the day as ego is a construct or label, there is no doing entity, only the idea of one. the word glue is not sticky and the ego can't lift a coffee cup. it can be conceptualized to have done so, but no more.


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