Sunday, August 7, 2016

What is Ego? The Matrix Definition

From (
I loved The Matrix when it came out.  Not just because of the fabulous fashion sensibility and amazing fight scenes (though those aspects were excellent :) – but mostly because I had just begun learning about this enlightenment thing and this was the first new thing I’d seen that actually kind of spoke to it.  It blew my mind – that there was a parable in modern culture that spoke to this idea – that supposed that the world as we knew it was an illusion and that there was a more “real” reality.  It was basically The Hypothesis in a modern narrative.  And it was actually pretty spot-on in a lot of areas even – though not in all of them.  Here’s how I see the movie being on point and off.


Living with an Ego is – really and literally – like living in the Matrix.  It’s basically an artificial world – a facsimile of reality that you interact with an misinterpret for reality itself.  The Ego essentially functions as a barrier between you and reality – a barrier that interprets reality for you.   And it feeds you a fundamentally distorted view of what reality actually is.  Living with Ego you do not experience reality directly – you experience a dramatized version of reality – a story about reality with subtle (and not so subtle) changes here and there.   And those changes have a "purpose" (or at least an effect) – which is one of driving you to expend energy in very specific ways – ways that reinforce and strengthen the Ego.

Because – like in the movie – the Ego also uses you as an energy source.  It cannot continue to exist without being regularly "fed".  And it essentially gets you to feed it by making you expend energy in specific ways – by making prompting you to do things like worry, or hurt, or fight, or hate.  It feeds on the energy you produce through these activities – and it essentially uses its place as a filter between you and the world to trick you into doing them.  It tricks you into putting effort into activities that produce something it can use to recharge itself – to sustain itself.  It exists because it steals energy from you – but it has to manipulate you into expending that energy – you have to give it willingly.  Not knowingly (you would likely never do it knowingly) – but willingly, i.e. through your own choice – through your own will.  It therefore adjusts your view of reality to essentially provoke you into providing it sustenance.  Because without that, it would cease to exist.  It would “die”. 

But really the word “die” here is a misapplication – because the Ego it not actually alive.  Because also like in the movie, the Ego is artificial.  It was constructed – was actually created by Man himself.  Our own Egos are constructed by each of us ourselves and collectively (in combination with all of accepted society).  Further, Ego is by nature mechanical.  It cannot do anything that you have not taught it to do – that it has at one time or another been programmed it to do.  We have unfortunately though been very good programmers – we’ve essentially built and almost perfect artificial intelligence – something more adaptable and capable than any programmed device known today.  It is still artificial though – it is our creation – and cannot be as intelligent as we are.  It cannot be as great as its creator.  Therefore once you see the Matrix, nothing the Ego can do can beat you – once you decide to fight it, it just simply cannot win.  


Living with the Ego is essentially living with unending suffering.  In the movie, when the little guy tried to bargain with the Agents to turn on his friends in return for being hooked back up into the matrix (with an added guarantee of a return to ignorant “bliss” and a “good” life in the artificial world) there was no real motivation (within the “reality” of the movie – I don’t think) for him not to do this.  In the Matrix, he didn’t have to feel hungry, or cold, or uncomfortable – because within the Matrix those feelings could be offset with programming – with adjustments to the fantasy world.  Really, it seems like he was kind of justified.  Life outside the Matrix kind of sucked, just practically, and life within it could be “good” for the right people – with the right accouterments and material possessions, etc.  Life within the Matrix could seem good at least – in a way that would “seem” to be better than the reality.  Maybe something would feel “off” – like it seemed to for Neo – maybe it would feel a little “wrong”.  But it was not horrifying.  Living in the Matrix was not awful.

Removing the Ego (in this world) though is not just removing yourself from a half-decent fantasy and entering a bleak, dystopian world.  While living with the Ego, we are always suffering – constantly, at all times.  The Ego feeds on our energy – and that feeding is painful to us.  Physically painful.  It would have made more sense if – in the movie – being “hooked up” to the Matrix actually caused constant, physical pain – like if the hookup itself constantly stimulated the pain centers of the brain and made the subject feel like they were constantly cramping, or constantly stinging.  Not a whole lot maybe – and maybe not even all the time.  Maybe just a little bit most of the time, with some times better and some times worse.  But enough so that being in the Matrix meant unending torture – unending discomfort.  A better representation would have been if, when someone being removed from the Matrix, they finally realized that some discomfort that they had been experiencing – has always experienced – was just…gone.  That it was not necessary – not an intrinsic part of human existence.  That it was instead just a consequence of being hooked into a machine that was constantly feeding on them – constantly stealing their energy.  It would relate more if being "hooked up" was always, without fail, unpleasant in some fundamental way.

This perhaps would have made the movie more boring by removing a source of conflict ;), but this is the reality of living with Ego.  You can see part of it right now – if you look.  You can actually see the Ego feeding on you.  Around the heart, or in the solar-plexus – somewhere in your chest or belly.  Maybe you’re having a pretty good day – not really worried or hurt or pissed-off – in which case it will be very subtle, just a vague feeling of discomfort.  Or maybe you’re having a really bad day – anxious or depressed or angry or all three – and it will be like a knife, wrenching and sharp and deep.  This is the Ego feeding.  This is what living in the Matrix means – this is what it feels like.  It can be difficult to see, because it is always there and always has been, as far back as you can remember.  So it feels normal – it feels like it should be there – it feels like it belongs there.  But it doesn’t – it’s unnatural.  And it’s unnecessary.  And once you’re disconnected – once you’re out of the Matrix – it stops – and you are free.

And something else that is different.  The Matrix was an actual, physical thing.  It existed.  And the Ego (fundamentally) does not "exist".  It's just a set of thought constructs that we accept and perpetuate - it is fundamentally an illusion.  It helps me as I work sometimes to anthropomorphize it –  to think of it as something real, even as something with intent.  But this is fundamentally just a thought exercise.  The Ego itself does not have existence or intent – it's just an artifact.  (But again, it helped me to think of it in the short term as "something", in case it does for anyone else as well. :)

Taking the Red Pill

Ah if only I had a red pill – something I could give everyone or anyone – and boom – the Ego would be gone, and they could feel the difference – feel for a moment what it is like to be unhampered by that constant, worrying pain.   Escaping from the Matrix – the Ego – is unfortunately not that simple.  It is such an accepted part of our lives – everyone’s lives – that even considering that it may not be necessary sounds like the rantings of a madman (or madwoman, in this case :). 

But this (I assert) is the reality.  We live our lives in an artificial construct designed to make us unnecessarily produce energy for the sole purpose of reinforcing said construct so we can feed it more.   It is a useless and unnecessary task – one that is never completed and we are never done with.  It just goes on and on, day after day, for no reason except “because” and “it’s always been this way, so it must just be this way”. 

Getting out of the Matrix may not be as easy as taking a pill – but the method is still relatively simple.  Escape is accomplished by starving it – by denying it the energy it needs to survive until it withers and dies.  There are many ways to stop that flow.  One is by not engaging in the activities it needs to turn your energy into something it can consume – by not worrying or hurting or fighting or hating.  This can be harder to do without an element of “faith” – a “belief” that those actions are “wrong”.  For me it took the gathering of a lot of initial evidence supporting the hypothesis to get to a place where I accepted it enough that I could just “know” that those activities were useless in the end, and resist the Ego’s machinations attempting to coax me into doing them.  So this may not be the best method for the outset then (it wasn’t for me, I needed more evidence :).  You can also do it by “seeing the code” – seeing how the Ego manipulates you into feeding it.  This way is also difficult at the outset though as it requires an immense amount of energy, and the Ego robs us of so much that we do not normally have enough available to us initially to see it all at once.  This method worked better for me (I live for analyzing things), but logic alone for me was also not enough in the end. 

Instead, a different, perhaps more accessible way to do it is by just watching the sensations – by recognizing them for what they are and just watching them, without judgment.  By just observing them – dispassionately, without engaging – we stop the flow of energy – and the Ego begins to die.  Simply watching sensations as the come, intensify, and – eventually – fade, they begin to come less and less.  And eventually, when enough energy has been withheld long enough – they will come no more. 

I’ve practiced this (really in all of the ways outlined – but mostly by sensation watching) – and while I am not yet totally free of sensations, they have lessened to a very significant degree.  My life is much more pleasant than it used to be – to such a degree that I cannot even really communicate it.  It’s like I was being tortured almost all of the time – like I was always uncomfortable – never getting any real relief.  And now, while I’m still sometimes tortured, I have good lengths of time where I am free of it – where I am not at all uncomfortable.  And these times get longer and longer as the days go by – as I continue to practice starving the Ego I become more and more unencumbered – more and more myself – more and more free  This is the promise – this is what the ancients mean by nirvana, enlightenment, and even (I think) heaven.  It is simply freedom from an artificial construct – freedom from the cycle of suffer-flail-repeat.  Again - the Ego cannot be as great as its creator.  Once you see the Matrix, nothing it can do can stop you.  Once you decide you want out, escape is inevitable.  But it can a PITA sometimes getting there.  :)

Sunday, March 15, 2015

The Hypothesis

I am a child of the Information Age.  I was brought up on logic and reason – on BASIC and math.  I did not attend church – never learned to fear hell or hope for heaven – I had no context for these things.  I knew of the world only what I observed – and had no learned context within which to try to fit them on a metaphysical level.

Essentially, I am a child of science.  I learned that the world was best describable and understandable via science, and I had seen no evidence to discount that idea.  It was through this lens then that I approached the existential questions I found myself facing during my crisis.  And as such, the approach I took to trying to answer these questions turned out to be a scientific one.  I basically applied the scientific method to my spiritual inquiry.

The scientific method can have almost infinite stops, but in general six basic ones are described:

     1.       Ask a Question
     2.       Do Background Research
     3.       Construct a Hypothesis
     4.       Test Your Hypothesis by Doing an Experiment
     5.       Analyze Your Data and Draw a Conclusion
     6.       Communicate Your Results

My inquiry into spirituality and the nature of existence really followed this progression.  It was – and remains – a scientific inquiry, and I proceeded within this in mind.

Asking the Question

The question was kind of simple.  Why does life feel so awful a lot of the time?  And is there anything I can do about it?  These questions certainly felt overwhelming at the time – but as I really could not see any solution I proceeded to investigate if there may be answers – and what those answers might be.

Doing Background Research

I began my inquiry with psychology and psychiatry.  I did not get very deep into these aspects and therefore cannot speak to them thoroughly or with any great authority – but I know for me none of the pharmacological solutions seemed to work for me totally, and neither did psychological care.  For me, the thing that really spoke to me and gave me an inkling that these questions I had may have an answer were the more spiritual, even religious and metaphysical areas.  As far as both answering the question of why life seemed so horrible to me and offering a solution to that issue – offering that it didn't have to be that way, the spiritual outlook seemed to give the largest promises of actual resolution  – and I decided to pursue it with all the effort I could.

Constructing a Hypothesis

Once I had decided to concentrate on spiritual matters, I then researched to find exactly what my hypothesis should be.  From all the various religious and metaphysical ideas out there – what parts would I incorporate into my theory? 

I finalized on a hypothesis that loosely follows Buddhism’s Four Noble Truths – that suffering exists, that there is a cause for it, that it can be ended, and there is a way to achieve that end.  Simply stated, the hypothesis in my inquiry was:

The Ego is the cause for a great deal of human suffering – 
and the Ego is unnecessary for human life.

There are many corollaries and aspects to this one statement (which I will be rambling about for many more posts :P), but this statement is the basis of the theory.  That human suffering is (at least in a large part) due to Ego – and Ego is unnecessary.

Testing the Hypothesis

So – I now had a hypothesis – and I needed to gather as much data as possible about whether or not the hypothesis may be true.  To that end, I tried as much as possible to view my life and my interactions with the world in such a way that I could compare the results of these interactions against the hypothesis.  The largest part of this effort was to be impartial in my observations.  As I encountered issues in my life, I had to be as open and honest with myself as possible about the actual motives for my actions and feelings about situations.  And I had to look at all of that and myself with no judgment – with complete objectivity.  I had to essentially remove my personal involvement with my life.  

Part of the hypothesis was that I suffered because the Ego existed – not because X thing happened or because of Y person, but really only because of the Ego.  This meant that preventing X thing from happening, or getting rid of Y person was not going to prevent the suffering – and that was what I had to observe to prove or disprove the hypothesis.  My life continued to be something I lived, yes – I laughed and I cried and I loved and I grieved throughout – but the whole time there was a part who was observing – who was comparing the situation and the data against the theory – and determining whether the theory was supported or not.

Drawing Conclusions

Even fairly early into this process, there were multiple instances where the data I gathered – when I looked at impartially – strongly indicated that the hypothesis may be correct.  If you've ever had a “light-bulb moment” – where you saw things suddenly in a whole new perspective and everything just seemed suddenly so…simple…then you know what I mean.  

Throughout all my experiences so far though, I have not yet seen an instance where the theory did not apply – or where I could conclusively say that the theory was incorrect.  Through all my investigations and experiences – through all my experiments – the theory continues to be supported and maintained.  Through 15 years of experience – of life – I have come to the conclusion that the hypothesis is in fact correct – that the Ego is the cause of most of the suffering I observe, and that it is not necessary for human life.  I cannot say I have proved it – the point of scientific investigation is never to prove anything – but I can conclusively say that the theory is supported by the evidence I have gathered, and from all indications is in fact the “truth”.

Communicating the Results

This – essentially – is what this blog is about.  It is an attempt to communicate the results of this decade-long experiment of mine into the nature of reality – and the nature of humanity.  I will be using this as a platform to expand upon the hypothesis and describe my observations.  This is basically publication – the holy grail of scientific investigation.  And as I am unaware of an authoritative source for this particular kind of result, for now self-publication will need to suffice, and I’ll be doing it here. :)

A Note About Science

Part of the basis of the scientific method is that the results can be reproducible.  No scientific experiment’s results are considered valid unless those results can be replicated – at will – by any other investigator who so desires – at any time and in any place.

This is…difficult…with these particular results. :)  The data in this experiment is not numerical – it’s not measurable by an instrument or quantifiable.  In fact – it’s not even technically divorceable form the observer’s perspective.  So much of it is about feeling – about individual perception – that calling it science is probably close to blasphemy.

The inquiry though – I believe the inquiry can be scientific.  Exploring this hypothesis does not require faith, or belief, or devotion.  It only requires a totally open mind – that the hypothesis could be true – and an impartial observation of the data and whether it supports or does not support the theory.  And it may be an important inquiry; because if the hypothesis is true – if Ego is the cause of the majority of our suffering and the Ego is unnecessary – then it means that a good deal of our suffering is essentially something we endure by choice.  It further means that the perpetuation of that suffering is within our power to stop or persist – and that every day that we choose not to investigate is another day that the suffering continues, for no reason other than the absence of asking the question.  I say this is the case – I have been investigating this and I say there is evidence and the theory does hold true.  You do not need to believe me though – all you need to do is perform your own experiments and gather your own observations, and draw your own conclusions.  I offer you the theory – what you want to do with it is up to you. But if you’re curious –if you want to see – you can follow me; and we’ll proceed down the rabbit hole together.  :)

Monday, March 9, 2015

The Start

It is possible to live a life without ego?

This is a loaded question - but I think is the crux of the issue I've been dealing with for over 15 years now.  At that time in my life (about age 19), I was coming into the realization that the world was not what I thought it was - or maybe better, not what I hoped it would be.  For me the realization took the form of seeing that - just maybe - no one else really knew what they were doing any more than I had so far in my confused, discombobulated existence.  I had thought for a long time that I was just really...uninitiated into the secrets of existence.  That there was something that everyone else knew or understood that I just hadn't been taught yet - and that once it was revealed to me (perhaps as I became an adult), that everything that seemed so strange about the world and how it functioned would all suddenly make perfect sense.

This is not what happened though.  As I started actually looking at the world around me and not seeing it as some sort of in-joke among every other human being on the planet, I realized that there may not be a great secret.  Many of the new people I met in that first foray into the larger world seemed - in their more unguarded moments - to be be just as lost and adrift as I has always felt myself to be.  And that scared me - a lot.  The idea that this same unfettered and unknown state was going to persist for the rest of my life was appalling - horrifying.  I took what I had experienced and essentially retreated back to my "known", small town existence - trying to come to grips with this discovery that I had made.

At that time my father's girlfriend then told me that she had worked with a named Anurag Shantam for a time when moving through her divorce, and asked if I would like to go see him.  From the first, I knew that this was a version of what I had really been looking for.  He said yes - there is something fundamentally wrong with the accepted view of the world - and yes, there was a way to overcome it.  He spoke of a life without pain - without fear - without anger - and with peace and serenity.  He spoke of knowing.  And I think that was what I was really searching for - the ability to know, without a shadow of a doubt, what the truth was and what I should do.  And Anurag offered to me that this was possible.  From that time to now, my "mission" in life has been to explore this issue and see if this really could be a way of life.  It has condensed into this mission - living without ego.

This blog for me is like a coming out.  I am a fairly normal person who holds a fairly normal job, living a fairly normal life - but I have this "secret" in a way that I have not yet shared with the larger world.  This blog is my attempt to share what I have learned so far on my journey with others - and maybe be of some help along the way.  My journey is also not completed, so this will help me as well - as I move into this more "public" forum for this part of my life I am sure there will be a lot of remaining ego to be uncovered, exorcised, and purged.  But mostly, I just want to say to other people who may be feeling what I was at 19 that yes - there is another way.  Yes, the world is full of pain and ignorance and anger and fear, but it does not have to be that way.  It can be different - at least for me and you and us it can.  All it takes is the dedication to that idea - that it shouldn't be this way - and the truth is uncovered automatically.  I'll be posting more info on pages about the specific semantics of how I understand the whole, but everything - language, ritual, specifics - is really just arbitrary.  It is all secondary to the desire to know, no matter what the answer.  As long as we have that, the universe will call to us, and it will get us home. :)