When I decided to spend the summer posting “deleted scenes” from the book, I wasn’t really sure what I would find on the cutting room floor. Now, with two and a half weeks until publication of the paperback and this blogging experiment reaching it’s end, it seems more got cut from the book than included in the end. These two paragraphs represent an early line of thinking about the ego, though I never quite felt clear enough about what I wanted to say to include it. I’m curious what others think:

Many spiritual traditions talk about the value of letting go of our egos. It’s the whole point in Buddhism. It’s a big help to Christian discernment. Why do so many faiths seemingly point us away from our natural focus on our own well being? Hindu teacher Mata Amritanandamayi says that many saints and sages throughout history have given the same message: “Contentment ensues from egolessness. And egolessness comes from devotion, love and utter surrender to the Supreme Lord.” For Amritanandamayi—who is believed to be a mahatma, or great soul, like Gandhi—being liberated from the ego enables her to live in selfless service to others, as “an offering to the world, like an incense stick that burns itself out while bestowing its fragrance to others.”

[1] Others say this is the same message Jesus gave in the Gospels and the true meaning of phrases like “The last shall be first” and “give up your life for your friend.”

Psychologists tend to look at the ego in an entirely different way, as the “self-organizing principle,” rather than as the enemy of spiritual growth. A person with insufficient ego development may be more susceptible to abuse, depression, illness, and all kinds of other problems. As a result, psychologists often focus on helping people develop a healthy ego. A balance between the spiritual and psychological perspectives was offered by Carl Jung, who argued that the first half of life was for ego development, while the second half was for ego surrender.

I think there is something to Jung’s view, though many spiritual teachers would vehemently oppose it. After all, Jesus only lived to be 33.

In any case, I just celebrated a birthday that makes it statistically probable that I am now in the second half of my life, which may be why I keep getting lessons in surrender.

[1] Amy Edelstein, “An Interview with Mata Amritanandamyi,” What is Enlightenment? Issue 17, Spring/Summer 2000, p. 29, 32.