The ego, or the self, is considered a great mystery and an indication of the unique quality of man. In man’s world, the ego is a unique phenomenon and an integral part of all humanity. However, this is neither an objective nor a scientific fact. This is the everyday experience of the ego, and it is always subjective and biased. Despite its mundaneness, I seem to be as problematic as the world’s greatest mysteries. But is it possible to judge it objectively? If it is, the ego has to be stripped of the special status and the atmosphere of mysticism.
Is the ego a hallucination of the mind?
For us humans, the ego creates a feeling that it is something unique. It forces people to define themselves above others, be more important than others, and even fight for their position. It forces people to look for a purpose for themselves. The ego is highly unique in the world we know. But because things rarely appear to be unique in the world, we have to ask if this feeling of ego can mislead us. Can our uniqueness be an illusion? It is pretty easy to think that the ego is a hallucination created by the mind—perhaps even one of the strongest. So I think there is reason to distrust the whole idea of me and individuality.
An excellent example of an optical illusion. There appear to be alternating dark and light squares in the chessboard above. However, the grid colouring is partly the product of our mind and, therefore, a distortion. Namely, the dark square A and the light square B are precisely the same colour, even though our minds turn them into different colours. Thus, we see our environment as significantly more skewed than it is.
But why would the ego exist if it was just a hallucination? Let’s look at that for a moment. The true nature of hallucinations is easy to misinterpret because we live the so-called normal with many powerful “aids”. Many biases have already been identified, and some of the best known are optical illusions. Optical illusions tell us that our mind—or some mechanism of the mind—gives us a sort of handicap in life in the same way that golf gives handicaps to inferior players. In golf, a handicap is a numerical measure of a golfer’s potential to enable players of varying abilities to compete against one another. Handicap elevates minor players to better ones and thus makes the games comparable.
Similarly, optical illusions and other hallucinations enable people to survive in nature equally when their starting points are weaker than others. It’s easy to see when this applies: in childhood and adolescence. Without that kind of help, children would have little chance of surviving in nature. We should note that only children need handicaps; adults are, as it were, professionals and do not have one. The situation for adults is therefore completely different. The question is, can the ego act like optical illusions? Is it a nature’s handicap? There are reasons to assume so. It is also reasonable to take that our lives are characterized by “an exaggerated handicap”, making the human “normal” strongly hallucinatory.
However, there must be a reasonable explanation for such a distortion. One strong candidate is a genetic defect in the psyche that does not allow an adult individual to “let go” of a child’s way of perceiving reality and feeling it as such. Adults should be detached from the childhood psyche, but things don’t go that way. And, for this reason, we misunderstand the true nature of the hallucinations. When hallucinations become normal, normal becomes hallucination. We are not able to properly judge hallucinations precisely because we are constantly in their control. We cannot manage them freely. We consider hallucinations normal because, since birth, we have grown to feel them normal. Hallucinations are our normal state of being.
And there is something almost impossible to detect: the hallucinations produced by the childhood psyche are meant to prevent a person— a child—from natural, deep, and experiential life by replacing it with colourless fabrications. The ego is not a problem for a child; it is a problem for an adult who does not experience the world properly because of a controlled mind and suppressed instincts. As this state continues into adulthood, we credulously believe these fantasies to be “realism.” So for us, the ego is a natural and almost tangible thing. The self in the form of individuality and personality can become even more important than life itself. We know from experience that only significant disasters, such as illness and death, can make us think differently.
The adult human ego is likely a mind malfunction, but fortunately, this disorder can be treated to some extent. Instead of encouraging people to emphasize their personality, we should restrain all focus on individuality because it is a hoax. For example, the current school system worldwide still promotes human egotism and arrogance over nature—one does not easily forget what one has learned. All that praises man should be suppressed from humanism. Humans are sick and therefore should not be considered unique or, at least, as the crown of creation and the world’s ruler.
Hallucination itself is not a genetic defect
I have put forward a hypothesis that “the reality” experienced by an adult human results from a genetic defect. However, we need to be careful with this. The reality experienced by an adult is indeed saturated with hallucinations. But a child’s ego is not a genetic defect; it is a crucial protective mechanism. Hallucination per se is not a genetic defect, but only the fact that it does not disappear after the teens. The fact that all adults have egos means that all of humanity lives under the sway of hallucinations. The human world is distorted, which means that everyone is lost. There is no ego or self in the world. There is no need to explain it. There is no need to elaborate it. There is no need to make it a mystery. It’s a hoax. There is just manipulated “handicap” of the early stages of life that facilitates the beginning of life. Nature has forgotten to tell people that no Santa Claus exists.
The development of the “self” is meaningless, i.e., it has no target in nature. It is a distortion caused by man’s detachment from nature. On the contrary, such action means only sinking deeper into the distortions of the mind. Understandably, the man tries to find out what causes his strange feeling of orphanhood. However, the development of the “self” does not provide an answer. Since the ego is not real, the personalities (I, you, he…) are not real either. The only proper solution for an individual would be to get rid of the self.
Is it possible to see the world undistorted?
In both psychedelic and mystical experiences, the ego usually disappears. The experience is extraordinary. It’s often artistic, sometimes even religious. Adults feel the disappearance of ego as a happy and blissful experience. They then realize that it is not a matter of hallucination or misperception, but of psychedelics opening up stuck mechanisms and showing the world without hallucinations—or at least without childhood hallucinations. Altered states of consciousness can yet be seen as a special and unique ability of humans to reach higher consciousness, but such an explanation means nothing at all.
However, anyone can have an altered state of consciousness. For a moment, the man gives up everything he has learned and starts his life again. Such an experience is called “rebirth” and not for nothing. Unfortunately, mystical and psychedelic experiences are often downplayed in studies of the mind. They are easy to misunderstand if defined by human metrics. However, they provide a unique way to understand mental distortions.
The adult ego is the address of a child’s selfishness
What kind of mechanism of the psyche is this ego, then? The ego or the self denotes the healthy selfishness of a child. The ego doesn’t have any particular body or “mechanism,” it’s simply an address for selfishness. The child’s ego points to itself. The child must be selfish because selfishness is part of the child’s protective mechanisms. The ego’s purpose is to name the protected individual, protect him from the environment, and help him stand out in or out of the crowd.
Every teenager feels the disappearance of the purpose of the ego as directionlessness. It is easy to see that adolescents’ emphasis on their egos and desire for speciality stems from childhood’s prolonged need to stand out and highlight themselves. Even an adult cannot break away from thinking of himself as a crucial being. Over time this trait often intensifies and turns into morbid selfishness. Although we can’t rid our egos, we can regulate greed either by feeding or curbing it. An adult always has the opportunity and also the responsibility to judge the necessity of his selfishness. That affects whether a person becomes a selfish pusher or a selfless helper.
The ego sounds like a unique phenomenon and an integral part of humanity. Yet, it is only the over-aged and redundant selfishness of a child. The ego is children’s aid with which the adults do absolutely nothing. Therefore, it has no function, even though people trapped in their selfishness think they have to fight for their existence against everyone and everything.
What does the ego do?
The ego makes us the centre of the world even though we, like other beings, are created to conform with our environment. This discrepancy reveals the significant difference between a child and an adult. The ego causes a person to start looking for a purpose for himself. As a selfish adult, he cannot open up to the world around him; instead, he curls around himself. A strong ego prevents not only from understanding life and existence but also from experiencing it. That is because the ego isolates the individual from the world. The ego limits the child’s world by ensuring that he does not become too curious or familiar. Children must identify their home and immediate surroundings while feeling that the rest of the environment is dangerous and frightening. In this way, the ego distorts reality, even though it does it with good intentions. In adulthood, these boundaries range along with selfishness.
A child’s ego is different from an adult’s. The child does not question the self only because he does not know how or why. Childhood’s self-evident world and learning belong to the exact security mechanism. For a child, “I” is functional and indispensable. If we hold on to our egos, we must take for granted the world in which we live. We can’t doubt it. For this reason, adults have a childlike relationship with the “reality”. The people who question the self-evident and the self question the world as well.
Ego and communal life
The human self is complete and doesn’t change much from birth. Instead, the person around it changes. He grows and strengthens, becomes more mature. That is why the self is not the key to the human mind. It is a distortion of growth caused most probably by a genetic defect. Society may consider the ego essential or harmful. Attitudes towards the ego determine their nature. Civilisations, or urban cultures, value human selfishness more than agricultural and rural communities. Cities are built on selfish culture, though not immediately, then at least later. We can see it most clearly in how they isolate and protect themselves from nature. It can also be seen in customs, perceptions and morals. In addition, an exhaustive urban economy treats nature solely as a resource for human needs. Egotism is a disability, which we comprehend as a powerful asset.
Egotism is also reflected in how civilisations read art—art signifies an expression of personality. However, the peculiarity of art is precisely related to the absence of the self and personality. What makes art universal is that art is a means to show things without self-centeredness. The core of art is always selfless and unbiased. Even though artists sign their works, “the art” itself is not about a personal creation. The most enduring part of art is not what the artists do; it is what they find. That is what creativity means: it has nothing to do with willpower. An artist is a psychic who receives reality as such. Equally, the core of art is not the ability to master techniques but the sensitivity to bring out the world beyond the reach of ordinary people, i.e., people with a mental genetic defect. Art is something a child or teen can’t even understand. Art, like religion, is entirely a matter for adults. No matter how theoretical the possibility, only adults have the opportunity to understand what it is to live without a self.
A woman’s bust against a blue background. Picasso is an excellent example of the fact that art—as well as religion—is a matter for adults only. Picasso’s art tries to show the world without the ego.