The self (or ego) is essentially ‘a defensive position’ – it wouldn’t be there if it wasn’t busy engaging in defence. The self is ‘a posture of defence/aggression’ – that is its nature.
What this means therefore that the self needs an enemy – it has to be acting in opposition to something. The self simply can’t afford to make peace with the world! No matter how much the self talks about peace (and it does talk about peace an awful lot) it doesn’t mean a word of it. Peace is the very last thing it wants.
We might ask what the self is defending itself against. Who is this terrible adversary that we are up against? In one way we could say that anything will do, we could say that any enemy will serve. As long as it has got something to reacting against that’s good enough; as long as we have someone to argue with, we are happy. We have then got something to be ‘completely humourless’ about, and this seriousness, this complete lack of humour is what creates the self. Chasing serious goals is what creates the self, and the goal of ‘defending yourself against an implacable enemy’ is a very serious goal indeed. This is no laughing matter!
In another way, we can be a lot more specific and say that the enemy that we are defending ourselves against is reality itself, is ‘the truth’. The self has to defend itself against the truth all the time, without ever taking a break. This is a job that never ends. The self has to defend itself for all it’s worth against the truth because the slightest encounter with this particular enemy can be fatal. Prolonged exposure will certainly be fatal.
Truth is the enemy of the self because the truth is that there is no self. Reality is the enemy of the self because the reality is that the self does not exist. Reality gives the self absolutely no leeway at all – it leaves it without a leg to stand on, without a rock to hide under. It strips the self bare, and it cannot survive this. The self can no more survive the truth than a shadow can survive a ten-thousand watt flood-lamp pointed right at it. We will have to say goodbye to the shadow then…
We have here the makings of a very serious struggle – no quarter is going to be given by either party. The self takes the threat posed by the truth as seriously as any threat could ever be taken. More than just this, the self is ‘the taking seriously of the threat’. The self or ego is the ‘defensive posture’. That’s all the self is; there’s no more to it than this fighting, this fleeing, this resisting. ‘Dropping the resistance’ is the very same thing as ‘dropping the self’.
Needless to say, the self does not admit to itself that is fighting the truth, defending itself against reality. Its steadfast refusal to admit that this is the case is of course the same thing as its resistance to the truth, its resistance to reality. Defending yourself against the truth is the same thing as not admitting to yourself that this is what you’re doing. Instead, we legitimise the struggle. We label what we are fighting against as ‘the bad outcome’ and so we don’t need to look any further than this – we resist the bad outcome because it is ‘the bad outcome’. What more needs to be said? What’s ‘not to get’ about this?
The self is perennially short-sighted and it suits it to be this way. If the outcome is ‘bad’ than it needs to be resisted as much as we can – end of story. We strive mightily to win, and to avoid the shame of losing, because that’s what the game is and we never see beyond the game. We don’t want to see beyond the game. Who questions why ‘the bad outcome’ has to be fought against? Who asks why it is so important to win, and avoid the ignominious fate of losing? The self gets to be the self by never looking at the ‘big picture’; or as we could also say, the self gets to be the self by never letting up with its constant judging, its constant evaluating, its constant labelling.
We might misguidedly imagine that it is possible to talk to the self and somehow encourage it to stop being as narrow-minded judgemental as it is, to take a look around it and stop playing the game of ‘right and wrong’, ‘good versus bad all the time’. If we do imagine this however then we are completely misunderstanding the nature of the self! The self’s allegiance is to itself, not to ‘the truth of its own nonexistence’! There is no way that the self can have an allegiance to ‘the truth of its nonexistence’ – it’s just not ‘playful’ in that way! The self is quintessentially non-playful in its nature and this is another way of saying that it takes itself very seriously indeed. There is no sense of irony here.
We have a very profound lack of understanding of the nature of the self therefore – we give it far too much credibility, we give it far too much credit – we invest it with qualities that it doesn’t really possess! The reason for this is of course because we have identified with this self so that we see the world through its eyes. When we see the world through the self or ego’s eyes then we cannot see anything straight, least of all ourselves (i.e. least of all ‘the self that we imagine ourselves to be’). How can we see anything straight when we have made the truth our enemy, and yet do not know it?
What we are talking about here has nothing to do with ‘right versus wrong’, or ‘good versus bad’, which are the self’s favourite terms. ‘Right versus wrong’, ‘good versus bad’ are the way that the self has of ‘making everything about it’! That’s how the self creates itself. When we see everything through the ‘truth-inverting eyes of the self’ we are essentially in a predicament – we are in a predicament without knowing that we are. If we are ‘unconscious’ then we don’t see the predicament; to start become conscious is to start to become aware of the nature of the predicament we’re in…
The nature of our predicament – we could say – is that ‘we are our own enemy without knowing that we are’. Every time we try to help ourselves we act against ourselves; every time we try to benefit ourselves we make yet more problems that we then have to deal with. Our constant attempts to benefit or help ourselves are the problem! We are fighting against reality without having the slightest clue that this is what we’re doing, and this is our predicament. Moreover, what we’re talking about here isn’t just ‘a‘ predicament, it’s the ultimate predicament!