Ego Mask, Spiritual Awakening And Self-Enquiry
The mask acts like a defensive shroud to make the inner self invisible to both the outside world and to the self. – John C. Pierrakos, MD, Founder of the Core Energetics Evolutionary Process
Most of us don’t see the invisible, unconscious mask that we wear everyday, for we identify so closely with it that we believe it to be who we are. Moreover, we feel we are happiest when this mask is expertly kept intact for our friends, family and society. In such a case, our ego gives us a pat on the back, we feel approved of and we think we’re on the right track. It’s only the right track because it’s the one we’re most familiar with, but it is not really the ‘right’ track. There is nothing that makes the mask happier than to feel approved of. But such so-called happiness never lasts, and so we need another fix. The mask also loves plotting, planning and scheming, and so it is constantly seeking and striving for something, whatever this may be.
Such mind-activity is hardly noticed for the most part, because, it is our normal day-to-day, moment-by-moment experience. It has become normalized. Without the mask we feel uncertain, lost, empty, forlorn, naked, frightened, isolated and out of control. This is because without its constant preoccupations we would be rbought into the here and now, and we’d have to face ourselves, ie face what we don’t like about ourselves. So we rarely allow the mask to drop for long. It’s too uncomfortable, too painful.
The mask is very, very clever. It adapts and changes to suit circumstances like a chameleon, not unlike the film The Mask in which the magical mask turns the protagonist into a manic superhero, signifying his alter ego, or his repressed personality. The mask is certainly a master showman, each person’s own mask an expert in its own unique and individual way.
The wearing of this mask became an automatic response from when we were a toddler. It can be sad when sympathy for a friend’s woes is required, it can crack a joke just at the right moment to make others laugh, it can be poker-faced when in the middle of a large crowd and it can divert attention from uncomfortable feelings in a highly calculated fashion. Sometimes the mask may have a few dominant traits, characteristics it loves to be, for example being funny, very serious, poised, in control, dramatic, intellectual, extrovert, introvert, distracted, dominating, manipulating, dutiful, respectable, deferential, right. There are many other roles the mask can adopt to suit the given moment, all in the blink of an eye.
When our behaviour and thoughts are determined by our own mask, we see only another’s mask. It is two masks interacting, not their real selves. A mask cannot see reality, as it is itself unreal. Something that is unreal cannot cognize something that is real. That’s why spiritual awakening is not something one can make one who has not seen their own mask, understand.
The mask is a filter that keeps out everything that doesn’t further the ego’s needs and wants. Thus the filter keeps out truth and reality and God, for these are its antithesis. It keeps out God – Divine Consciousness, Spirit, Source or whatever word you prefer – since inviting the Divine to enter into one’s life is to give up one’s will for the greater Will, which is the only real will at play in Reality. Since the ego does not wish to be displaced from its predominant role it will do all it can to convince you (through thought / mind) as to why you need your needs and wants and why these are what is real and right. But there can be no true spiritual growth without the loss of ego. John Pierrakos, a psychiatrist and pioneer in the holistic practice of medicine and psychology said, “The mask dampens the vibrancy and buoyancy of the life center.”
There are many other words that can be used for this mask such as personality, ego, body-mind, conditioning, image, filter, mind-identified state, façade, outer persona, false identity.
There are certain characteristics of the mask that can be stated as follows:
- It is not real
- It’s synonymous with thought, thinking, beliefs, judgments
- It has you believing your thoughts are who you are
- It gives the illusion of control
- It has to state its opinions on anything and everything – people, events, the world, God
- It lacks real courage and real wisdom
- It loves itself more than anything else, even its own children (think about this – who do you go around thinking about nearly every moment of every day? It’s you, isn’t it?)
- It’s self-serving, cunning, calculating and manipulating – mostly whilst making a show of not being these
- It’s always inauthentic
- It makes one dull and lacking in vitality because it robs one of spontaneity / beingness – because ensuring what one is going to say or do is ‘acceptable’ takes preparation, by which time that moment’s gone. That’s why Jiddu Krishnamurti said we are ‘second-hand’
- It constantly seeks love and approval in the external world
- Its focus is the outer world, other people, and external events
- It secretly enjoys suffering and the drama of emotional roller-coasters
- It is unable, for the most part, to think creatively
- In the end it always creates suffering for oneself and/or others
- It lives in a stressed out state, always needing to be doing or saying something – silence and the present moment are avoided at all costs
- It changes like the wind to suit outer circumstances; it’s unstable
- In females it’s that hidden vixen that ladies secretly know very well and men have to suffer!
- In males, it’s the domineering energy – the ‘stronger’ sex
- It’s usually materialistic and success-driven
- It blames others and does not take responsibility for what it causes
- It thinks it’s special and better than everyone else
- It feels it’s right – even when it’s clearly wrong
- It denies painful emotions and buries these
- It convinces itself it’s happy when mostly the actual experience is of suffering
- It’s an addict of something or other – this something being one or more of a myriad subtle addictions not just the most obvious ones
- It’s never, ever satisfied, even with billions of dollars
- It resists intimacy, peace, freedom, truth and God
The list above may seem pretty ‘damning’ or a hard pill to swallow. In reality most of us are most or all of the above, but it’s not such a big deal because we are not all those things in truth. It’s all a fictional personality. Those aspects are kept in place simply by our denial of them – and as we maintain our denial, the ego jumps up and down with glee for it can continue it’s insensitive existence with our own blessing.
So all we need to do is to start seeing all of this stuff within us, is just that – to start seeing it! That’s all we need to do. Then as we start seeing all of this, the momentum is taken forward by the universe as we meet the universe half-way which is a vital step, and ‘we’ or ‘I’ can relax back a bit and invite the universe to take over. The relaxation comes from the willingness to be real – that really is the hard part. But as we become more real with ourselves, it becomes easier and easier, for the universe will without a doubt bless us with the deep realizations about the truth of who we are and it is these realizations which dissolve the list above and ‘change’ us. Change in the sense of changing from the false to the real. The you that has been trying so hard in life is tired, so as we give it all to the universe we experience what it’s like to finally discover a true resting place. And this resting place is right here, right now. It’s always available, because truth never disappears. Eternity, infinity, truth….it’s always present.
Of course it’s not a one-hit surrender – life hits us with some challenge but we don’t need to worry, the universe will guide us to the next surrender.
Here are some reasons why it’s hard to surrender. We fear that if we take off the mask these things would happen:
- We would be consumed by our own emotions and we would not be able to cope with life
- People would not like or accept us – we would be ridiculed, judged, embarrassed or ‘found out’
- We would die even….because we can’t imagine who we would be without this constant mind-chatter which is who we think we are
- We would not be able to maintain our jobs or business
- We would not be able to maintain our relationships
- Life as we know it would change and we’re invested in ‘better the devil you know’
- We would be bored – and perhaps this is one of the most immediate horrors the ego has: a hatred of boredom
From the ego-mask’s point of view, it’s totally understandable that most people don’t want to take it off, but from the point of view of the true self who has no need of this mask, it is a whole lot of needless drama for nothing. That’s why many people who have moments of awakening sit and burst out laughing – they finally get the madness of thinking the way they were thinking up to that moment. They see that they were not the actor and it’s just a fiction they’re appearing in.
Eventually all human beings will face themselves as they are for reality has a way of being real 🙂 And as the mask comes off (life will push in this direction) they will see they are none of those things listed above. And then the real journey of embodying their divine truth begins, and that’s when amazing things happen – amazing things like peace, understanding the truth of oneself as one with all and divine (not separate), bliss and gratitude, realizing the truth of silence and stillness, receiving miraculous healing, finding their very real power, witnessing as the personality ‘straightens out’, and so much more.
Collective Dark Night Of The Soul
At this time in the world, there is a collective dark night of the soul occurring. You don’t have to look far to know how challenging and uncertain life has become at nearly all levels and for most people. Things that provided meaning or could be relied upon before, have been taken away just like that, and I believe that collectively humanity now finds itself in a global dark night of the soul.
And in the dark night there is an opportunity to surrender one’s individual ego – which then helps to surrender the collective ego. The dark night comes as a message from the universe to embrace our shadow self, and if we can do this work, eternal and real blessings await. It’s a time to direct the efforts and energy we use in maintaining the mask into understanding it within ourselves and healing the issues that ensure the ego remains in place.
The irony of it is that the ego hides the truth of who we are – eternal, infinite beings – which is what we’re really seeking. All of the satisfaction we seek is already within us. We really are waiting for our Self.
If we drop the ego even for a moment, we will see that without the constant thoughts we have about ourselves there is simply no ‘me’ – no identity. Try this – prove to yourself who you are. Prove your identity to yourself. Show yourself to yourself as an identity, as a personality. Point to yourself. Where are you, this identity? You can’t prove it, can you? The great person we think we are is no more than a bunch of thoughts about ourselves! We waste the precious opportunity we have as a human beings to Self-realize, by believing our thoughts about ourselves. So simple, yet it seems we humans find this so hard to wake up out of.
So if we self-enquire in this way, we may at some point see that the one who is contemplating these deep things, is not totally identified with the mask otherwise we would not be able to be aware of the mask from this distance and rather just be submersed in it as always. These ‘awareness efforts’ are what will put eternal deposits in the bank of our soul.
As the path of self-evolution progresses, the light of the True Self behind the mask is gradually revealed. The aim is not to get rid of the mask; this should not be the point or the focus. The point is to stand back from the mask and see it for what it is – as simply a coping mechanism that arose from around the age of 3 in response to the world treating us as a separate individual. There is no blame or punishment needed, all can and will be forgiven when we see our mistake of believing the illusion of separation to be reality.
In abiding in the dimension of the real Self in our daily activities, a peace is available that is beyond the stresses of having to buy into the hamster’s wheel of perpetual striving and relentless mind activity. There is no need to go sit on a mountain top or go to an Indian ashram to experience inner peace; we can feel it now, in the real world. Like the phoenix rising out of the ashes, the real Self is what will reveal itself if we (personality) step out of the way.
As a caveat, so that I / this body-mind does not give the impression that it is always in such a peaceful state for that would be a lie 😊…yes, of course we do have to interact with life, relationships and the world as that is the game we entered into by our own accord, and as such, pain and suffering are felt. But when we suffer, it’s simply a reminder that our mask came back into place as the arbitrary judge between real Self and the world, that’s all. And each time we recognize we’ve become identified with ego, we have another opportunity to surrender – and then we can be blessed with bliss and peace again.
Wishing you peace,
- The Mystery of God in Human Form – Swami Krishnananda - Dec 24, 2021
- The Absolute Waits Patiently - Nov 29, 2021
- God says, Remember me? (Suffering on the Awakening Path) - Oct 17, 2021