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Is the self real?

This is a question which has been debated innumerable times and it’s a fundamental one. How can be an illusion so strong and so real? I feel I exist and I feel my demands are legitimate.

I don’t think thought in itself is an illusion. Thought is simply a process happening in our minds and so it is real. Memory is real, it’s some “digital” recording in our brain cells. The recording is a physical fact so it’s real. What is not real, the illusion is to take the content of memory and of thought as if it was the actual thing out there. Thoughts causes in us the same emotive reactions we have towards things happening actually outside. K. said that thought and emotions are the same thing. Surely they are strictly linked together.

But what about the ego? The problem arises because we think there is an entity, “I”, which dwells in the body, and this is an illusion. I think we should enquiry about this concept of entity. Essentially entity means there is someone there, a living being. So men are considered entities, god is considered an entity, the angels and devils are entities, and so on. This concept of entity is very strong and we never doubt it.

But the ego, I, is not an entity, or a thing. The ego is just a pattern in our mind. We never think in terms of patterns even in the outside world and I think it’s a pity. The patterns we find in the physical world are very simple: take waves, sea waves or sound waves. Usually we speak about them as if they were things, objects, but actually they are a phenomenon, i. e. the temporary modification of some solid, liquid or gaseous object. In the case of the sea waves, the thing is the sea and the waves are just a pattern created by the action of the wind on the sea surface. Both are real but with a difference, you can have the sea without the waves, while you cannot have waves without the sea. And it’s a mistake to consider waves a thing.

I think there is a similar relationship between memory or thought and the ego. Of course in this case things are much more complicated than with sea waves. But anyway the ego is just a pattern the human brain has put together in its long evolution. There is a clear biological factor in the building of the ego. At an elementary level our brain functions by way of patterns. We can call them conditionings as they condition our behavior. And patterns can be changed ! The brain or mind can exist without patterns but patterns cannot exist without the mind. An entity is something which has an existence of its own, the pattern has not.

So, concluding, the ego is not an illusion, it’s quite real but we cannot see it! Like the sound waves, we cannot see the pattern of the waves (which are detected by instruments) but we can hear the sound which is the effect of the pattern. Similarly, we can see the effects of the ego, its outcome, it’s destructive action in the world. And that is just what K. spoke about. The illusion consists of believing that the self (or the ego or I) is an entity and therefore it has an existence in itself, of its own. Actually is thought who creates this illusion.

Using your above analogy, are you saying that the ego (sea wave) is a pattern that cannot exist without the mind (sea), but the mind can exist without the ego?

You’ve made the argument that the illusion of self serves a practical purpose, and that’s why it persists. But what practical purpose does the ego serve?

The way I see it, the only practical purpose a self serves is in social situations when it is appropriate to affect an identity best suited to the occasion. What we call the ego is an appropriated identity that thinks its real.

I am glad that you see my argument about the practical necessity of the self in everyday life. To me, the self and the ego are the same things. Apparently, you and voyager regard the ego as something else. Can you explain to me what - to you - is the difference between the ego and the self?

To be social, one affects a mannered identity. To have an ego is to believe you are that mannered identity.

There is no question that thought creates the self or the ego for safety and security. We don’t need to discuss it in detail.
The question is has it worked or it has created the opposite in the world. If thought has failed by strengthening the self what is the alternative? That is why K’s teachings are priceless. It shows us the alternative that works. And that is exactly why some of us are here. To learn about the other way of living.

There is a commonality about the structure of a self. It is the form that thought takes. The best description of the form taken is conversational identity activity.

Yes, I stated that clearly. It seems you didn’t read the rest of my post.

This statement is wrong. In my conversation with you I’ve said clearly a number of times that ego, I, self are the same thing. And this is evident just from the meaning of those words, ego means “I” in Latin, self accoding to dictionary means: “a person or thing referred to apart from others” so it’s me again, or you, or them. The problem with self arises because this word has been used in most indian spiritualities to mean a different entity, a higher one, from the ego. They say you can discover your “true self” and so abandon the ego. That is clearly a fallacy. They substitute an entity with another but all entities are illusory. Ego (we) is built through the process of identification and so it’s an identity. The self is just another identity so it has the same nature of the ego.

Yours was a necessary clarification. One needs to distinguish oneself from the interlocutor, so daily life conditions us into the form of a distinct self. And the self, the ego, adores to chat! We can observe it clearly in this forum: how proud we are of our discussions! (:slight_smile:

Conversation has just become syncronised self perpetuation.

Wow! Wonderful definition! (:slight_smile:

Now, to be just a bit slightly serious, your definition reminded me of a book - a fiction book - I read long ago. A man and a woman declared their love to each other, then the man said: “you confim my reality and I confirm yours”. That sentence struck me, it was something intelligent we don’t usually find in fiction.
This is the evidence that we are not sure of our own reality!

Is the self real? And is the world, as seen by the self, real?

“Is the self real? And is the world, as seen by the self, real?”

I have written my views about this issue, just scroll this page up and you’ll find it.
It’s a bit long maybe but if you are interested and don’t get bored you might have a look at it and tell me if that makes sense to you.

Seems to me like a good working definition of the “sense of self”.

It has the same nature, but what makes the ego different from the self is that the self is an identity used on occasion, and the ego is an identity that can’t be dropped.

I don’t understand, could you please give your reasoning or describe how you came to this conclusion.
Also, who is using the self? Who is using the ego? Who is using these identities?

There is no “who”. The self is created by the mind to serve a useful purpose only when needed, and the ego is the self established by overuse. That is, when used constantly rather than occasionally, the mind forgets that it is nothing but thought and is deluded into thinking it is the identity it created for occasional use.

Tricky stuff - If I followed that correctly, it would seem that its all just thought playing tricks on itself.

It seems that way at first, but the mind is not playing tricks on itself. If the mind behaves a certain way often enough or continuously, that behavior becomes the new normal, or default mode. So if you spend more time with other people than alone, you “become” the identity used for that purpose; you forget that your identity is a fabrication.