(Author’s note: this is the second of four articles about the ego.) In the article “Iago or Ego?” I introduced the concept of the ego–its origins and its characteristics. I drew upon the story of Adam and Eve in the book of Genesis–the first book in the Bible. The story is an allegory to explain why and how we came into this imperfect, impermanent world. The story is clearly a tragedy ending with God banishing Adam and Eve (humankind) from paradise, then cruelly thrusting them into a world with birth/death, pain, suffering, decay, loss, time/space, sin, and guilt. The story clearly portrays God as the villain and the serpent/ego as the victim.
There is another Biblical story in the New Testament book of Luke. The story is told by Jesus and is meant to undo the falsehood of the Adam and Eve story by showing that the opposite is true. Jesus’ story is the good news he repeatedly spoke about throughout his ministry, which tragically, was mostly ignored or misunderstood. His story, in every aspect, is meant to undo the millenniums of fear unleashed by the Genesis story.
The story in Luke has many different names depending on the Biblical translation. In the New Revised Standard Version of Luke, Chapter 15: 11-32, it is named “The Parable of the Prodigal and His Brother.” The characters are a father and his two sons. The story begins when the younger son demands his inheritance from his father, who without protests or conditions, gives him what he asks. The son quickly squanders everything and finds himself starving amongst the pigs. At the peak of his suffering, he realizes and regrets his choice, and resolves to return home to face his father and ask for forgiveness. He believes he has disappointed and hurt his father so deeply that he is no longer worthy of his father’s love. He anticipates reprimand and punishment. As he approaches his home, he is rehearsing what he will say to his father. However, before he even gets home to ask for forgiveness, his father sees him approaching in the distance, rushes to greet him, and unhesitatingly, enthusiastically embraces him. The son starts to plead his case, but the father is so joyful, he ignores his son’s rehearsed speech. Instead of scolding or interrogating his son, his father calls for a feast and celebration. When the older brother comes in from the fields and learns that the party is for his wayward younger brother, who has returned, he gets angry and jealous, so he confronts his father. The father’s response to the older son is also completely loving.
Why is this story such good news? Because it is the opposite of the story of Adam and Eve. In this story, the younger son leaves the father to establish himself separately, but he fails dismally. So, he believes he has angered his father and lost his father’s love. However, the truth is his father never stopped loving him. The disconnect was all in the son’s mind! The father saw no offense in his son. All that mattered to the father was the son who had left had returned.
What this story does not tell us is whether the youngest son experienced an epiphany and realized he was loved and always would be loved by his father. Was he able to discard the mistaken belief that his father’s love was conditional–thinking it still hinged upon whether he pleased or displeased his father? There is no coercion in Love, so despite his father’s dramatic expression of unconditional love, the son was still free to believe or disbelieve his father. We do not know which voice the son chose to listen to–the voice of the ego, or the voice for Love. One says “be afraid,” and the other says, “DO NOT BE AFRAID.” What we do know is, if he listened to the first voice, he perceived a world of sin, guilt, and death. If he listened to the second voice, he perceived a world of peace, joy, and forgiveness.
You too are free to decide which of the two Biblical stories you believe. Every moment of your existence you are free to choose which voice to listen to. The truth is you really are not apart from your Source, which is unconditional, ever-present, all-encompassing Love. Therefore, the most outrageous belief in this world is your belief in the ego. Choose the voice of the ego and you will see a world of birth/death, pain, loss, illness, decay, separation, and scarcity. Choose the voice for Love, and you will see a world of peace, joy, harmony, and oneness.
This seems like an easy choice, so why do we keep listening to the voice of the ego? The answer is simple–the part of our mind that is the ego is deeply rooted and self-reinforcing. So, like Iago, the ego is willful, clever, mesmerizing, persuasive, cunning, and convincing. Also, know that the ego always speaks first and loudest. So, how do we deal with the ego? Like Othello, are we too destined to listen to the voice of Iago, leading us down a path to destruction and death? I write about the process of undoing the ego in the article, “Is There Hope for the World?” However, next go to “Why So Much Hate?”