Wicca and other pagan religions often teach more about ’empowerment’ than ‘power’. One might consider the two closely related, but this is far from it. Its the idea that even if you had the Goddess/Divine touch you, or you developed untold gifts of prophecy, empowerment (not ego) allows you to feel strong without arrogance; strong willed without being stubborn.
And to do this begins with letting go of your ego.
The Ego, according to Freud, mediates between the ID (basic drives), that of the Super Ego (conscience), and that of the external world. The word derives from Latin, meaning “I myself”, or ergo, meaning “The I”. In modern terms, the ego represents self esteem or one’s self worth. In Buddhism, the ego is illusion which helps perpetuate all illusion. This is not to be confused with self pride. After all, ego has more to do with one’s perception of self, not how others see you. In others words; you don’t have to allow other’s opinion build or even deflate your ego. Ego also ties into comparing oneself to others, which is another falsehood of judging oneself.
What this entry is about, however, is letting go of the perceptions of self ego and that which holds us back from seeing ourselves as how we truly are, or how we see others. A witch learns to ‘know thyself’, and this is impossible if the ego gets in the way.
Some examples of ego can be compared to the food chain. Obviously a food chain shows what’s on top (which is good because who wants to end up being someone else’s dinner?), and someone inevitably must be on the bottom. (the ones getting eaten). But a food chain is an illusion. It only illustrates part of a food web. Even the top predators can fall prey to other creatures. Lions, for instance, considered to be ‘K=king of the jungle’ are often attacked and killed by Hyenas, as lions will also attack and kill hyena. Hyenas have numbers in their favor, while lions have sheer strength. Even with that, lions have been kicked, their jaws broken, by zebra, which ends up killing them. Even the lowly jackal now gets to feed on the king of the jungle. So there really is no one on ‘top’.
Humans like to think we are on top. We have the mastery of thumbs, after all, right? Fat lot of good that does if you’re thrown into the wilds of the Antarctic with nothing but the clothes on your back and facing down polar bears. Not so top-of-the-food-chain now, are ya?
Comparison becomes the main tool of establishing ego, but does making someone less or more make us less or more? Certainly not, but you can experience the illusion that somoene is better or worse than you are. This leads to unhappiness and even depression.
Take for example the typical belief that being more intelligent makes one better. I have above average intelligence, even having a coworker once admit he felt ‘stupid’ when we chatted about things. “Why do you feel that?” I was aghast he felt this way, being I never once considered him stupid at all. “You know so much” He replied. “I don’t know about all that stuff.”.
First of all, he didn’t need to know all ‘that stuff’. I tend to love learning, reading, and exploring new things. Life is fascinating. Its a hobby of mine. However, I don’t have much in the way of common sense, especially in the sense of money matters. He had that, as well a marvelous sense of humor. He was a great story teller, while his timing of jokes make the long work shifts move right along.
I assured him in no way did I consider him stupid. He had, I also explained, natural curiosity which is a mark of intelligence.
But ever meet someone who is intelligent, but they make sure you knew about it too? Not so impressive then, is it? There are, after all, a number of different types of intelligence from people skills, to spatial, to book knowledge, and not one of them rates higher than the other.
Ego is then only an illusion of our self perception.
Letting go of this; letting go of comparing oneself to others, and all the conflict it brings, not only opens you up to a happier life, but also begins the process of touching with the Divine within. (or without…depending on your belief). Buddhists believe you must let go of ego to reach enlightenment. Shamans release ego (even temporarily) to travel between the worlds.
How to do this? The first step is accepting is that you are an individual, yet also part of a larger community of mankind. You’re a part of, but not defined by the community. This is your responsibility to define for yourself the person you are. Also accept that we are not perfect. Perfection goes against Nature for Nature is the balance between Order and Chaos, both of which are crucial for the world’s survival.
Remember also, that you’re letting go- not destroying. Even letting go of things like Anger doesn’t mean you can’t feel anger. Its there, but you learn to let it go. A Zen story goes where a student tells his master. “I have nothing in my mind now. What shall I do next?” The master replied, “Pick it up.”
You are also not destroying who you are as a person. The concept is that the ego is preventing you from truly seeing who you really are. Beneath the fears, anger, weakness, bravado, and other perceptions, the real you is there.
A Zen Koan concerning ego and ’emptying your cup’;
Nan-in, a Japanese master during the Meiji era (1868-1912), received a university professor who came to inquire about Zen.
Nan-in served tea. He poured his visitor’s cup full, and then kept on pouring.
The professor watched the overflow until he no longer could restrain himself. “It is overfull. No more will go in!”
“Like this cup,” Nan-in said, “you are full of your own opinions and speculations. How can I show you Zen unless you first empty your cup?”