*Summary: A great talk about the role of the ego on the spiritual path and the
nature of the ultimate disappearance of the ego as we have heretofore
known it into that which is off the Path or off the map altogether, but which
is always there. This must be one of the clearest accounts Michael has given of the shift
from being centred in the ego to being centred in the universal energy - a
discontinuity in which identification with the ego structure is dropped,
although an ego structure remains as a vehicle for universal energy
expression in the world of form. In order for the goal to be reached, at
some point on the journey one has to come to see that what one is aiming
for can never be an achievement in time by an ego-identified self.*
Now, everybody here in this room is on some kind of search. And the
motivation for making that search can vary, can be different. It can include
It can include an ego factor - that from what you've heard or read or
felt, you sense that by going on what is called 'the spiritual path' you can
arrive at a state of being which is better than the one you have now, and
better than the one that most people have, and can bring you much
enrichment, so the ego says, "I want that," and sets off on the journey -
reading about it, hearing about what people say you have to do to reach the
goal or approach the goal where all the goodies are waiting; and maybe
some goodies come before the end of the Path, because the very process of
searching brings rewards. I guess that's always a factor.
It could be something from your past process. Let's assume that it's
true what the Eastern religions claim - that we live a series of lives, and
that something is preserved each time and is passed on to the next life, and
that we have already undertaken the journey before in one life or several
lives, so at some stage in our lives when we've been through the normal
life situations and responded to them as young people with the energy to
live in certain way, to enjoy oneself, to make relationships and so on...
Those things are so attractive that we don't maybe become aware of more
subtle movements in us until later, but then when that's kind of died down,
as it always does, then suddenly you become aware of energies in you, or
movements in you, tides and currents in you that may have come from past
lives, and you just click back into it and continue the Way. That's another
possibility or another factor that is probably present in many people.
And then you can say, well, if it's the destiny of all human beings to
return to the source, to become enlightened, to clear all the debris, all the
troubles in our beings that we've picked up, then if we create a space in
ourselves where that can manifest, then that very essential factor will start
operating, and all we have to do, in a way, is to let it function, since the
only thing it wants is to bring us to the goal and return us to our true nature.
So these are three of the possible factors. There may be a great deal
more that I've not mentioned, but these are some of the forces that are no
doubt operating in you all, and in me, that make us spend weekends in
places like this to see if we can make some progress towards the goal. And
they're all perfectly sound bases for making progress on the Path. Even the
first one, the ego one. To say, "Well, it's there, and it sounds as if it's
beautiful, more beautiful than anything else - more beautiful than worldly
success, more beautiful even than maybe a great love relationship, more
beautiful than just having enjoyment in my life, making pleasure the most
important thing. That also can bring rewards, but this sounds as if it's
superior to that, so I want to go for that. I want the best!" - that's perfectly
good as part of the motivation. In fact the title of a recent book that came
out from me was, This Marvellous Ego! and I called it the marvellous ego
just for that reason - that it can be the factor that makes you decide to go
on the Path. And when you do, you can then click into these other
But at some point, the ego, of course, which has set you off and been
instrumental in getting you going, has to disappear. And that's really the
point I want to talk about this morning.
So the ego gets to work to see what it can do, and you encounter other
people who have a lot of understanding and knowledge and methods, and
often they are the products of some person's ego. But there's nothing
wrong with gaining information, knowledge and progress from other
people's egos, just as there's nothing wrong with being guided for a while
by your own ego. And so we go into all sorts of processes and therapies
and so on, paths, explorations - we gain this, we gain that, we see this, we
see that - and then we think, "Ah, great! I'm getting on now! Somehow
I'm getting a bit polished, and a bit more relaxed and more open, less
reactive to what happens to me, less identified with my reactions. I'm
becoming calmer, I have more equanimity." All these things are great
gains, compared to the majority of our fellow beings. And so we continue
to make progress and believe that maybe we're getting closer to the goal.
But the fact is that the ego can never, ever, ever bring you to the goal that
you are aiming for.
Whatever the ego receives as a message, or hint, or guidance on the
Path from one person to another, is still part of duality. You take something
from somebody, you hear about a meditation, you practice the meditation:
there are two. First there's the guide and you, and then there's what you've
taken from the guide, or the book, or the meditation, or the knowledge, the
sharing, and then you say, "Right, I'll try that," so then there are two: you
will try that on yourself.
Now, when you do that, when you explore a proven meditation of any
kind, then for sure you're going to get some benefit out of it, as many
people, maybe thousands of people, tens of thousands of people have done
before. But the benefit that you get is granted to your self, your identity,
your personality, your form, your individual energy field. And that is part
of you, I'm not denying that - I'm not saying that that's a myth, because it
is not - but the goal is absolutely outside that. It is somewhere else.
It is not a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow, and all you have to do
is to travel the rainbow and it is there. It isn't on the path that you are
travelling on at all. It is not an end product, like a university degree or
professorship, some diploma that you gain from acquiring knowledge and
practice. It isn't like that at all. It lies somewhere else entirely. And
because of that, nothing that you do on the level that you are operating on
can possibly bring you there.
It can do a great deal, I repeat again. It can refine you, it can open you
up, it can give you great insights - and one of the insights it can give you is
the insight I'm talking about now. *(chuckles)* So I'm not against it at all. It
can bring you the insight that, "My god, I see that what I want is not on this
level at all!" It is on the level of something that is independent of you and
yet includes you. It is on a level that is independent of any individual
human being, but includes you, and includes all human beings. It is a
universal energy that runs through everything, including you, and your
friends, and your partners, and your children, and your parents, but its
essence is outside you. Its expression is in you - always is, always has been
- but its essence is outside you, and only when you are with the essence are
you with life as it is. And then you are outside of duality.
The universal energy is outside all duality because it includes
everything, so there is no way that there can be two any more. It is, and it
is, and it is, and it is; it includes all, and there's nothing to oppose it, so
there cannot be a duality. There is not another side to the universal energy.
So in a way, to get it... *(pauses)* Well, there may be various ways, but I'm
saying now that to get it you have to fall into it, and when you fall into it,
you fall out of the ego structure.
The ego structure does not dissolve, because you're going to need that;
you have to function in life. When you come from the non-duality, it still
has to move through your individuality, so it will move through it
according to the form that has developed in your life. So that will still be
there, but you are not centred in it any more. You're not saying, "This is
me," any more, you're saying, "That is there, that is the form through
which I express myself, I'm not rejecting it, I'm not disowning it, I'm
actually still enjoying it. I still do many things - watch a good movie, read
a good book, play a game of tennis, make love; all these things I can do,
and can I feel that my form, the old form, is in them, is enjoying them, but
it's a play. And I like to play these games, because they make me feel good
to be alive and to go on as I am, as this person, but I don't take that as my
true self any more. Yes, it's part of me, but it's not all there is."
So that is still there, but you drop out of it as central, as central to your
existence, and you fall into the universal energy - which is always there, it
is never absent. You may be absent from it, but it is never absent. And
when you're in that, you're with everything. You're with the trees and the
birds, the sky, the sea. There's just harmony. You are at rest. And because
nothing is interfering with that, you're in some bliss, too, because that is
what happens. You're not in bliss about anything - you're not really even
in bliss in the sense of feeling, "Ah, I'm with the trees, I'm with the sky. I
feel at one with the trees. Ah, that is blissful!" That's cause and effect. No,
it is not like that. It is that being in that state of universal oneness is
blissful. It just is.
So my main theme in the seminars these days - it's not the only theme,
because I see that despite what I said, and maybe everybody's
understanding of what I said, it's still unreal for many people, most people,
but still - what I do mostly is in effect to allow this universal energy space
or vibration to take me over, and be in that with the participants who come
to the seminars, and hope, really, that amongst other things there will be a
resonance, because we're all the same.
That state I am talking about has a vibration, of course - it is an energy
space, an energy state - and that state hopefully will pervade the room and
hit everybody, and of course disturb your energies, but also hopefully
awaken in you that same state, so that aspect of yourself, that universal
aspect of yourself then becomes intensified, strengthened, stronger, more
real, more present, and over some time - which it takes, of course, plus
anything else you're doing in the same direction - it will become so strong
that you'll say, "Aha! Aha, this is what he's been talking about!"
Now, if you are identifying still with your ego development, as opposed
to accepting it as being positive and good, if you're identifying with it, then
of course, whether you know it or not, whether you admit it or not, you will
be looking for contributions to that ego development - or perhaps
'refinement' would be a better word than 'development'; for some,
development, because the ego needs to be strengthened sometimes, but for
most people who come to these seminars they will be looking more for
refinement - that means to make it more clear, more acceptable, more
harmonious with other egos, more attractive, and so on. And of course,
especially if you have made some progress in that direction with other
methods and teachers and therapists, and so on, and you're feeling the
benefit of that, then you'll think, "Well, I'd like to have some more benefit
for this." And if that's the case, then I guess your appreciation of what goes
on here will not be so great. You may even feel disappointed that you
haven't got something that you felt you wanted. But I can't really give you
that, because in general I feel it's in the wrong direction. Or one could say
that you can get that in many places, but the universal energy space you
cannot get in many places. So that's my speciality. *(chuckles)*
Now, I was just reading some conversations between the Dalai Lama
and a bunch of American scientists - not dyed-in-the-wool scientists who
see only what scientists see, which is not so much, but enlightened
scientists, by which I mean open scientists - and they were talking about
the relationship between the brain and the mind. And of course, the strong
scientists, the extreme scientists, and even some of the more flexible
scientists say that there is no mind apart from the brain - that the mind is
just a superstructure to the brain. And Buddhism, says the Dalai Lama,
says something very different. Buddhism says that that's true on ordinary
levels, emotional levels even - on levels where the mind works in response
to what the senses experience - but he says that there are subtle levels of
consciousness which precede the brain. And he gives some examples of
this. He talks about awareness of past lives, for instance, which is quite
common in the East, after-death experiences, and several other examples
which I forget now. But what he's saying is that there are subtle levels of
energy which are outside the whole personality complex and the normal
functioning of a human being on this earth, and that these levels have
nothing to do with the normal operation of the system - which is, in a way,
another way of saying what I've been saying this morning.
What I've been saying is that we have an identity, we have a life, we
have a process, we have, maybe, a destiny, and all these things are so
widespread and common, and so intense, too, that it is easy to get locked
into them, to feel that that's what life is. And the majority of people feel
this - not only scientists, but ordinary people: that what you see and what
you feel is what you get and what you are. But that's not the whole story.
And the true spiritual path is to see that; to explore the story, to examine
the story, to penetrate the story through meditation, or any other method...
This is what they do in meditation. You're penetrating the story: "What is
this mind? What is going on? What are my motivations? Why do I behave
like this? Why do I respond like this?" To penetrate the story, and as
you're penetrating the story, to find that there is something else which is
not included in the story. And then when you find that, in a way the story is
That's not really true, the story does continue, but in a way you're not
inventing the story any more, you're not making the movie any more. The
movie's there, but you're not making sequels to the movie, there are no
more additions to the movie. The movie may change, because when you're
in contact with the universal energy it's obviously going to reflect in your
ordinary life and it's going to make a difference in the way that you are,
but that's not going to be in the normal way of a development, it's going to
be more of an opening or a widening as the ego functioning moves more
into harmony with the universal functioning, although it remains an ego
functioning. So when that happens, the person to whom that happens
doesn't feel, "Ah, now I'm getting somewhere! Now I'm approaching my
goal. Now I'm getting to the end of my movie." You don't feel that at all.
You've already reached the end of the movie.
It is like my famous little poem written long ago, which I quote many
People climb mountains
because where the mountain ends,
the sky begins.
But the point is
at every point on the mountain
the sky begins.
All you have to do
is to jump.
So it's like when you get that contact with the universal energy, it's as
if you've jumped off the mountain - the mountain that I was talking about
where you are developing and growing and reaching out for the goal to the
top of the mountain, achieving, obtaining, gathering. Suddenly you're out
of that. You've jumped. But you're still on the mountain, because life is
taking place on the mountain. And then maybe you find yourself walking
up the mountain with some other people, but you're not interested in
reaching the top of the mountain because where the mountain ends the sky
begins any more, because you've found the sky.
So that's the difference. It's a whole different feeling. You're in life
but you're not going huff, huff, huff. You're not striving: "Phew! How
much further? Oh, I thought I was at the summit and now there is another
summit!" You know how it is if you've ever climbed a mountain: you
think, "Oh, there's the top!" and you get there and then you see it's not it,
and then, "Oh, now there's the top!" And that goes on and on and on. So
you're not in that targeting at all any more, but you're walking on the
mountain. And in that sense other people on the mountain might say,
"Well, look at the way she's walking now, with a lot of lightness and
ease," and so on. "She's a more beautiful person now than she was before."
But for that person, that's incidental. That's not an achievement, an ego
achievement, it's a reflection of the connection with the universal energy,
so it's not part of their movie that that has happened. But it might become
part of other people's movies.
And when you are in that universal place, things are just as they are.
They don't have to have a special meaning. You don't have to say, "How
can I use that for my greater development?" The sound of a plane going by
is just the sound of a plane going by. A bird flitting across the trees is just a
bird flitting across the trees. An insect on the window is just an insect on
the window. It doesn't have to have any deeper meaning. You don't have
to say, "What can I get out of this for my goal, for my progress, for my
So as long as you're still settled in the ego reality, then even if you
have a great experience of Oneness, you will say, "Aha, that's a great
experience I have had on my mountain. Great! I must be making progress.
Let's work harder." Which has a good side, that you work harder and look
further, but it's a misunderstanding of the experience as well - which is
inevitable; I'm not saying it's wrong. I'm saying it's a misunderstanding of
the experience you might have ten thousand times - that what you
experience in the way of universal reality is a gain for the ego, because
you've had this great experience, and you can tell people about it, or tell
yourself about it. Then you think, "Oh, I'm really getting somewhere!" But
you already got somewhere. *(chuckles)* You see?
In that moment that you had this experience, if you'd have said, "Aha,
that's it!" you would have got somewhere. But you don't. You're too
busy... The momentum of going up the mountain is so strong that even if
you have a little jump, you say, "My god! Phew! That was something! That
was scary - but great! Beautiful! There is some more of that up there, so
let's get up there. Maybe there's more of that nice state of being up there."
But the perfect thing to do - which of course I wonder if it has ever been
done - is to have one experience and say, "Ah, that's what I was looking
for. Bye-bye, ego!" and just remain in that moment and not come out. In a
flash - "There I am!"
I've read stories of that happening, but I don't really believe them.
*(chuckles)* They are saying it can happen in a moment, in an instant. But
still, I use it to indicate this see-saw. It's like a see-saw. You get something
over here, and you think, "Aha, that's great!" and then you put it on the
other side of the see-saw and make it an ego game. And at some point I
guess one has to be on to that - that means to click and see, "Ah, that's
upside-down, that's back-to-front, inside-out."
So sit with that for a little while, will you, in any way you want, for
some minutes. I'm going to stop talking now, but I don't want to move into
some activity, because what I said will certainly have hit you all
somewhere - because if it's true, then you know it's true, and to the extent
that you know it's true, then it can start to bloom in you. So I'm just going
to leave you to sit there, or sit somewhere else, or stand, or look out of the
window or whatever for fifteen minutes and just let what I have said
hopefully permeate through you so that something comes out of it of
practical use to you.
*Group Talk given at the Easter Festival, Holland on 26th March 2005.
14th in the series, 'True Happiness'.*