Thursday, April 26, 2007

The Virtual Ego

The Virtual Ego and the Illusory Aspect of its Control Power

One real part of the ego system is the ego as representation, and another real part of the ego system is the ego as a referent (including one's actual body, thoughts, and history). Asking whether the ego exists is too simplistic. The real issue is "In what sense does the ego exist?" or "What is the real nature of the ego?"
The mind is designed to accept the mentally projected self-representation as literally identical to oneself. But the imagined, distorted concept of self arising from this conflation is not the whole of the ego, so it's not true that "the ego is only an illusion". The ego system includes an illusion, but is more than that.
The ego exists, but in a way that is more limited and complex than is usually felt. The Enlightenment conceived of the ego as an autonomous self-steering entity, rather than as a slave or puppet of gods or Fate. The cognitive structures of the semi-illusory ego must be preserved even while discovering that its thoughts and actions originate from the underlying plane, rather than originating from the ego. The ego exists virtually, or in certain limited aspects, the naive concept of ego is distorted, accepting the projected ego image as being as real as the egoic cognitive structures.
The ego-entity exists as a real set of patterns and dynamics, but the ego is not as solid, continuous, or powerful as it seems. The ego is both a set of real patterns, but also a projected, constructed image. In a way, the perceived ego exists, and in a way, it does not. The mind usually projects and constructs a fairly solid and simple image of oneself. Seeing the illusory aspects of this mental representation and feeling the absence of the accustomed sense of personal solidity can be experienced as death, as literal cessation of personal existence, because the naive mind strongly identifies with the projected image and the sense. Mental processing is structured with the conscious ego-representation as the center of control and experiencing. This representation of the ego is a dynamic set of mental constructs. This deceivingly tangible representation of the self or ego is only a part of the ego.
In a dissociative cognitive state, the usual cognitive structures constituting the ego cease, and the projection of the ego image also ceases. Oneself still exists in many ways, such as a body, a brain, a mind, possessions, and a personal past. One genuine aspect of oneself has temporarily ceased to firmly exist: the egoic cognitive processing, which is largely but not entirely suspended. The projection of the self-image is also partly suspended. Insofar as the mind confuses the projected self-image with that part of the self which is genuine, that projected self never existed, other than a perceptual illusion, and so could not cease to exist. If the ego is defined strictly as the natural assumption that the mentally projected self-representation is literally oneself, then it can be said that "the ego is only an illusion". But such a narrowed definition of "ego" raises the question of what to call the real cognitive structures that reliably project that illusion. The ego is more than just an illusion. It's a large, complex, and dynamic set of mental processes, of which the deceivingly tangible mental representation is only one part.
The will exerts control power, but this power is virtual rather than literal. There is some control-power, but the normal perception of this power is distorted. The sense of having control power is taken too literally and too simply. Ego structures are refined after enlightenment, not eliminated. Physics cannot provide a legitimate dwelling place for the ego entity, because the ego is largely illusory. Delusion or enlightenment are collective: first there is a uniform interegoic control field, deluded about control agency, then the rational, cybernetics explanation of enlightenment is discovered and communicated. There is a shocking feeling of helplessness upon realizing the insubstantiality of the cross-time ego.

-Michael Hoffman

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