When I began to meditate I thought self-knowledge would come as a lightning bolt of insight, a moment of illumination so profound it would free me from the bonds of ego forever. I was wrong.
The experience of self as pure consciousness, as eternal light and love, was profound. I saw myself as an expression of Being, not separate from it. The clarity of that moment did not last, however. Instead of disappearing, my ego became wilier, hiding behind good intentions, rationalizations, and fear. The more energy I put into slaying it, the more frustrating it grew. I had failed to understand that seeing the Divine nature of self is not the end of enlightenment, it is the beginning. Ego is not the enemy of self-knowledge; it is a path to it.
… ATTAINING the higher contact is only as a step TO the development of the better self.
-Edgar Cayce reading 275-37
For it is in the application, not the knowledge, that the truth becomes a part of thee.
-Edgar Cayce reading 826-11
May the self, the ego, awaken to its possibilities, its RESPONSIBILITIES,…”
-Edgar Cayce reading 146-3
Cayce uses the terms “ego” and “self” to describe soul’s conscious awareness turned in different directions. When consciousness is turned within, the self is aware of its oneness with the Divine. Cayce calls this the “better self.” Turned toward the material world, it is ego, identifying with what it sees and does.
But the ego turned in the other direction may be and is the constructive force in the experience of each soul; expressed in the I AM being one with the I AM presence…
-Edgar Cayce reading 261-13
This shift in awareness from the exterior, material world, to the interior world requires mental practice.
… the God-portion of every entity, and there the spirit of truth, of helpfulness, of hopefulness, may meet with self, the ego, the I AM, that is of the Creative Forces - THROUGH the MENTAL application of self.
-Edgar Cayce reading 516-3
Cayce suggests we: “LITERALLY, stand aside and watch self pass by!” (262-9)
Observing ego without attachment is a practice, much like meditation. Each time we “stand aside and watch self pass by,” we realign the self, the I AM, with the Great I AM. Like meditation, when we make it part of our daily life, we develop a pattern that becomes habitual. Unlike meditation, we don’t need to wait for an appropriate place or time to do it. We can practice self-observation whenever we are awake and aware of ego at play.
Employing ego in service to the Divine, we take away its power to lead us astray. We use the ego, rather than being used by it. This is what Buddhists mean when they speak of using a thorn to remove a thorn. Choosing to honor the moment by becoming the “watcher,” the better self doesn’t destroy the ego, but it can help us understand the karmic and astrological conditions that formed it. It can show us how to peel away obstructive layers, “prune” it, to reveal the radiant light of Being within.
“There has been in the experience of the entity the necessity of the pruning of much of the own ego, that the I AM may find the greater expression.”
-Edgar Cayce reading 657-3
“That individuals may of their own volition choose the exaltation of self, or the aggrandizement of self's own ego, is apparent. This makes for what many have termed and do term their karmic conditions, that may then be seen.”
-Edgar Cayce reading 262-77
The more we watch ego’s actions without attachment, the more grounded we are in the knowledge that the self, the “I AM,” is one with the Great I AM. It helps to think of the self as “I and I,” as the Rastafarians do. To see the self as I and I is to recognize the soul’s individual expression while acknowledging its Divine nature.
“For each soul seeks expression. And as it moves through the mental associations and attributes in the surrounding environs, it gives out that which becomes either for selfish reactions of the own ego - to express - or for the I AM to be at-one with the Great I AM THAT I AM.”
-Edgar Cayce reading 987-4
Knowing the self, freeing it from the bonds of ego, is the soul’s work. It should be no surprise it takes more than a moment of insight to accomplish what took countless lifetimes to create. Through the patient practice of turning within, we can build a deep understanding of self, realign with the All, and say with humility and joy, I Am.
“For it is line upon line, precept upon precept, here a little, there a little. And if ye would have thy God - yea thy better self be patient with thee, then be patient with thy study, yea thy fellow man.”
-Edgar Cayce reading 826-11