Chapter Four: The Root of All Evil
VI. The Ego-Body Illusion
69 All things work together for good. There are no exceptions except in the ego's judgment. Control is a central factor in what the ego permits into consciousness and one to which it devotes its maximum vigilance. This is not the way a balanced mind holds together. Its control is unconscious. The ego is further off balance by keeping its primary motivation unconscious and raising control rather than sensible judgment to predominance. The ego has every reason to do this according to the thought system which gave rise to it and which it serves. Sane judgment would inevitably judge against the ego and must be obliterated by the ego in the interest of its self-preservation.
70 A major source of the ego's off-balanced state is its lack of discrimination between impulses from God and from the body. Any thought system which makes this confusion must be insane. Yet this demented state is essential to the ego, which judges only in terms of threat or non-threat to itself. In one sense the ego's fear of the idea of God is at least logical, since this idea does dispel the ego. Fear of dissolution from the Higher Source, then, makes some sense in ego-terms. But fear of the body, with which the ego identifies so closely, is more blatantly senseless.
71 The body is the ego's home by its own election. It is the only identification with which the ego feels safe, because the body's vulnerability is its own best argument that you cannot be of God. This is the belief that the ego sponsors eagerly. Yet the ego hates the body because it does not accept the idea that the body is good enough to be its home. Here is where the mind becomes actually dazed. Being told by the ego that it is really part of the body and that the body is its protector, the mind is also constantly informed that the body can not protect it. This, of course, is not only accurate but perfectly obvious.
72 Therefore the mind asks, "Where can I go for protection?" to which the ego replies, "Turn to me." The mind, and not without cause, reminds the ego that it has itself insisted that it is identified with the body, so there is no point in turning to it for protection. The ego has no real answer to this because there is none, but it does have a typical solution. It obliterates the question from the mind's awareness. Once unconscious, the question can and does produce uneasiness, but it cannot be answered because it cannot be asked. This is the question which must be asked: "Where am I to go for protection?" Even the insane ask it unconsciously, but it requires real sanity to ask it consciously.
73 When the Bible says, "Seek and ye shall find," it does not mean that you should seek blindly and desperately for something you would not recognize. Meaningful seeking is consciously undertaken, consciously organized, and consciously directed. The goal must be formulated clearly and kept in mind. As a teacher with some experience, let me remind you that learning and wanting to learn are inseparable. All learners learn best when they believe that what they are trying to learn is of value to them. However, values in this world are hierarchical, and not everything you may want to learn has lasting value.
74 Indeed, many of the things you want to learn are chosen because their value will not last. The ego thinks it is an advantage not to commit itself to anything that is eternal because the eternal must come from God. Eternalness is the one function which the ego has tried to develop but has systematically failed. It may surprise you to learn that had the ego wished to do so it could have made the eternal because, as a product of the mind, it is endowed with the power of its own creator. However, the decision to do this, rather than the ability to do it, is what the ego cannot tolerate. That is because the decision, from which the ability would naturally develop, would necessarily involve accurate perception, a state of clarity which the ego, fearful of being judged truly, must avoid.
75 The results of this dilemma are peculiar, but no more so than the dilemma itself. The ego has reacted characteristically here as elsewhere because mental illness, which is always a form of ego involvement, is not a matter of reliability as much as of validity. The ego compromises with the issue of the eternal, just as it does with all issues that touch on the real question in any way. By compromising in connection with all tangential questions, it hopes to hide the real question and keep it out of mind. The ego's characteristic busyness with non-essentials is for precisely that purpose.
76 Consider the alchemist's age-old attempts to turn base metal into gold. The one question which the alchemist did not permit himself to ask was, "What for?" He could not ask this because it would immediately become apparent that there was no sense in his efforts even if he succeeded. If gold became more plentiful, its value would decrease, and his own purpose would be defeated. The ego has countenanced some strange compromises with the idea of the eternal, making many odd attempts to relate the concept to the unimportant in an effort to satisfy the mind without jeopardizing itself. Thus, it has permitted minds to devote themselves to the possibility of perpetual motion, but not to perpetual thoughts.
77 Ideational preoccupations with problems set up to be incapable of solution are also favorite ego devices for impeding the strong-willed from making real learning progress. The problems of squaring the circle and carrying pi to infinity are good examples. A more recent ego attempt is particularly noteworthy. The idea of preserving the body by suspension, thus giving it the kind of limited immortality which the ego can tolerate, is among its more recent appeals to the mind. It is noticeable, however, that in all these diversionary tactics, the one question which is never asked by those who pursue them is, "What for?"
78 This is the question which you must learn to ask in connection with everything your mind wishes to undertake. What is the purpose? Whatever it is, you cannot doubt that it will channelize your efforts automatically. When you make a decision of purpose, then, you have made a decision about your future effort, a decision which will remain in effect unless you change the decision.
79 Psychologists are in a good position to realize that the ego is capable of making and accepting as real some very distorted associations. The confusion of sex with aggression and the resulting behavior, which is perceived as the same for both, serves as an example. This is "understandable" to the psychologist and does not produce surprise. The lack of surprise, however, is not a sign of understanding. It is a symptom of the psychologist's ability to accept as reasonable a compromise which is clearly senselessto attribute it to the mental illness of the patient rather than his own and to limit his questions about both the patient and himself to the trivial.
80 Such relatively minor confusions of the ego are not among its more profound misassociations, although they do reflect them. Your egos have been blocking the more important questions which your minds should ask. You do not understand a patient while you yourselves are willing to limit the questions you raise about his mind because you are also accepting these limits for yours. This makes you unable to heal him and yourselves. Be always unwilling to adapt to any situation in which miracle-mindedness is unthinkable. That state in itself is enough to demonstrate that the perception is wrong.