What is the ego? Literally, the ego is the self, the “I” that a person truly and fully is. It is not the roles we play, the stuff that we do or have, but the innermost reality of who we are as individuals. Yet, the ego is more than our individual person, because the “I” is always in relation to the “other” and the world. The “I” is not alone. We cannot know ourselves as “I” unless we can see ourselves in others. For the “I” to be truly or fully “I” is to transcend himself or herself to be with.
The ego transcendent, then, is one who is able to be truly with, who can fully incarnate into another’s life. Thus, the ego transcendent is fully accepting of the “other,” so much so that the “other” is not an “other,” but at one with the ego transcendent. Therefore, the ego transcendent has no agenda but to join with the “other” in mutuality and solidarity. If the “other” is open to growth, the ego transcendent journeys with the “other” to explore the universe.
When God states that God’s Name is, “I am who I am” (Ex 3:14), God is expressing the fullness of the Deity’s ego transcendence. God is beyond God-self and is at one with all of creation. The Transcendent One, the Christ, then comes to be – to incarnate – with us, Emmanuel. Jesus is the archetype Ego Transcendent human: “Before Abraham was, I am” (Jn 8:58), so that “they might be with him” (Mk 3:14) .
Jesus announced a new age, the age of Christ, the age of ego transcendence (Mt 3:2) to mark the beginning of his ministry. The age of ego transcendence is discernable by being involved in the process by which we divinize our souls (the Eastern Orthodox call it theosis), becoming the “I am” to be with God and the “other.”
Becoming the “I am” is not different than who we already truly are. We need only strip all that is not “I am.” So, our present reality is as the “I am” but we esteem not the “I am” nor do we receive the “I am” (Is 53:3, Jn 1:11). And because we esteem him not, nor receive him, we do not live in the truest state of ourselves, but as others to ourselves. It is not surprising then, because we live as others to ourselves that we treat others as others, and not as our true selves. This is why Jesus gives us the greatest commandment, “Love the Lord your God with all that is within you, and love your neighbor (the “other”) as you love your “self”– your “I am” (see Mt. 22:34-40) Thus, we are all called to be involved in a life-long recovery process, recovering the “I am” in each of us.
Today, ego transcendence, becoming the “I am”, is often spoken of as a psychological process, but has, as I have shown, been a spiritual/religious process for time immemorial. In Christian religious parlance the process has been variously called sanctification, divinization, perfection, conversion, or as Karl Rahner called it, simply, transcendence. Whatever it is called, whether with psychological terms or spiritual/religious terms, it is what the Transcendent One wishes for us, in order that we be joined to the Divine Mystery, to be with God and others.
Ego transcendence is becoming Christ-like: “And we all, with unveiled faces reflecting the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another, which is from the Lord, who is the Spirit” (2 Co 3:18, NET).
© Paul Dordal, 2015