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What You Seek is What is Seeking - God is Closer to You than Your Self

Meditations on Ego and Enlightenment - by Eric Allen Bell


Over a long enough period of time, the survival rate for your body is zero.  Contained within the body is the brain and one of the functions of the brain is the ego.  The ego is the self concept of the brain-body organism and it does not like what was just said one bit.


And there are different states of consciousness than just ego.  The ego is like a dog you bring with you on a journey. Untrained, it will run off, bite others and come back to bite you.  But trained and disciplined it knows its place. It can sense things, warn you of danger, protect you.  As the saying goes, "Ego is an excellent servant and a horrible master".  


On the journey, to confuse yourself with being the dog that runs alongside you, is to be lost in a profound hallucination. Such is the nature of the egoic mind.  It knows nothing of the true self and is driven only by its need to survive.  No reason to make it feel bad though.  Better to pat it on the head and every now and then – throw it a bone.


Demonization of the ego is the result of ignorance.  This idea that we must smash the ego comes from those who do not understand the ego - their only understanding is that they fear it.  As the world becomes more and more afraid of itself, this brand of so-called “spirituality” becomes ever more popular.


Smashing the ego makes about as much sense as removing an eye or cutting off your arm.  It is barbaric, not necessary and in fact very harmful.  And insofar as the brain-body organism is concerned, as the body navigates through material space, a self concept is better than no self concept.  Ego is that branch of self concept that concerns itself with the survival of the brain-body organism that often thinks it is you.  It is only harmful when it is misunderstood or when it’s forced to go underground in order to survive.  Take good care of it and it will serve you well, but never allow yourself to serve it.  This road goes in circles and leads to a certain kind of madness that passes for normalcy in our society today.  The insanity of ego identification is still the social norm at this early stage of our evolution.


In the human state we experience the full range of human emotions.  We are having the human experience.  To be captured entirely by the human experience is to lose site of the reality that this human vessel is a very small fraction of who and what you are.  It’s part of the ride, it won’t last, and there is really no sound reason not to get all of the action out of it that you can.  In retrospect, when one leaves the body, it will likely be remembered as a crazy day at the carnival, looking at the fun house mirror. To believe that what you see in that fun house mirror is you, is to forget who you are and where you are.


There are teachers, teachings, books, seminars - so much available to tell you who you are.  And one can incorporate these teachings into a belief system.  But a belief system is a cheap substitute for direct experience.  A belief system is a map and compass that one can never be sure is reliable until you are truly lost.  Only then does one find out that the treasure map you were sold was at best, only a rough estimation of where you are and where you are going.  If your belief system came from the religious establishment, then it was purchased at a novelty shop. 


When we are not misidentified with the ego, belief systems lose their importance as one turns to an inner voice, the voice of the Soul.



As with all words, when speaking of spiritual matters, the word "soul" is only a rough approximation of what we mean.  Incidentally, all matters are spiritual matters and the word "soul" refers to that which transcends the limitations of ego, but contains the higher dimensions of self. 


So what is Enlightenment?  There is certainly no shortage of charlatans out there, auditioning for the role of being the one who can answer that question for you.  As it turns out, there are “enlightenments” along the journey.  As the awareness of Self expands and expands, these are enlightenments.  The many merchants of so-called “enlightenment” would have you believe that enlightenment is a finish line that you will arrive at if you follow their treasure map, their belief system.  For many of us it takes falling for this hoax over and over before we are willing to take the responsibility and find the courage to look within.


I can tell you that what it means to be a “spiritual person” is to know that you are everything and everywhere. You are the world; you are every person you meet.  You are the moon and stars and galaxies and the universe and the multi-verses and you transcend space and time.   And if you take my word for it, and incorporate this into your belief system, it is not the same thing as seeing it directly.  It won’t work to hitch a ride on someone else’s experience.  And besides, what if I am blissfully walking off the edge of a cliff, looking up at the sky?  Don’t settle for hand-me-downs.  Seek the experience with more passion and commitment than anything else in your life.


If anyone tells you that in order to find God you must turn away from the world, they are speaking out of ignorance – more than likely parroting words from a belief system which their ego found comfort in.  After all, it is the greedy ego that seeks to find and seize upon “abundant bliss” and then be acknowledged and respected and praised for it.  That which is truly you, already knows bliss to be its true nature.  So to turn away from the world is to find God, but also to turn towards the world is to find God.  How can God be missing?  God is all that is and all that is not.  That which seeks to find God is only suffering from a self-induced state of Amnesia.  Simply put, you are that which you seek.  But don’t take my word for it.


Pay close attention to nature and you will see that nothing really dies.  It merely changes form.  The only thing that dies, when a tree falls and rots, is the mental concept of a tree.  In fact what is taking place is merely change.  Every part of that tree becomes something else.  All of existence is in flux, expanding and retracting, evolving.  That which looks out through your eyes is part of this evolution.


As you move from Amnesia toward God Realization, the Soul evolves.  Your perception broadens. Your experience deepens.  To memorize anything that has been said here will only serve as a form of imitation.  To hold up any word choice to careful scrutiny will only reveal that none of these words can be relied upon.   Everything I have told you here is a complete and absolute lie.  And hidden within each lie contains the jewel of enlightenment. 


That which does not evolve - dies.  But even that which dies serves a purpose.  It becomes the fertilizer of new life which seeks to evolve.  Nothing is wasted on the journey, nothing is lost.   And in that circle you find yourself, you lose yourself, but what remains constant is self.


Even in the deepest darkest depths of human emotional experience, when one really goes into the darkness deeply, you will find illumination.  It is everywhere you seek it, always hidden in plain sight.  Whether you are chanting a mantra or explaining to the landlord why you do not have the rent, every act is holy when done consciously with conscious intent.


What you have just read is a letter, that you wrote to yourself and asked me to hand deliver to you when you are ready.   The light switch is on a dimmer.  It’s in your hands now.




Eric Allen Bell


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Comment by Eric Allen Bell yesterday

Jack: I feel that this conversation you are trying tenaciously to keep going is degenerating more and more into complete lunacy.  Your dogmatic view that everything is about child abuse and that spirituality is just a way to avoid the child abuse that we are all somehow trying desperately not to remember, is tedious and boring.

I don't have anything further to add.

Comment by Elia A. Sinaiko, PhD on Sunday

Hi Jack!

   If you substituted "we" for "you" your comments would not seem so judgmental.  But perhaps that is what you mean?

   I have to agree that we cannot eliminate hurt, that we will always feel it, but we can prevent it from overwhelming us.  If we repress we lose awareness and so lose choices because we are driven by emotions that we are not conscious of.  I think this is also what you mean.  Would you also agree that every means of introspection (meditation, analysis, catharsis) can help us to become self-aware?

   I also have to ask you why you assume that every person has suffered "abuse" as a child.  The inevitability of parental failure and ensuing pathology was in vogue in the 60s.  Winnicot developed the notion of "good enough mothering", that parenting does not have to be perfect for development of healthy spontaneity, just good enough.

"Only the true self can be creative and only the true self can feel real."  For Winnicott, the True Self is a sense of being alive and real in one's mind and body, having feelings that are spontaneous and unforced. This experience of aliveness is what allows people to be genuinely close to others, and to be creative.

                                                                                                           from Wikipedia

By the way, Eric and you seem to agree about the effects of religious ideation, agreement perhaps lost in the persistence of argumentation.  But the dialectic* is not easy as our ongoing discussions show.

In my short and inconsistent practice I came to some simple conclusions:  1) The capacity for intimacy is the basis of mental health.  2) The unconscious mind does exist.  I have experienced it in myself and seen it in others.  3) Human affairs are fraught with paradox, contradictions seeming to defy solution.  4)  The emerging person has to repeatedly work through his childhood conflicts at every new stage of development.  I wonder if this is also true of civilizations.

So Jack, I would like to ask you again in your words, what is the hurt that drives your behavior, what are your buried memories?  And in my words, what are you working through again and again at each stage of your development? 

* I often look up words to relearn them and to prevent a "drift" of meaning:
di·a·lec·tic  ˌdīəˈlektik/
noun: dialectic; noun: dialectics
  1. 1.
    the art of investigating or discussing the truth of opinions.
    synonyms: discussion, debate, dialogue, logical argument, reasoning, argumentation, polemics;
    "feminism has of course contributed to this dialectic"
  2. 2.
    inquiry into metaphysical contradictions and their solutions.
    • the existence or action of opposing social forces, concepts, etc.
adjective: dialectic
of or relating to dialectic or dialectics; dialectical.
synonyms: discussion, debate, dialogue, logical argument, reasoning, argumentation, polemics;
"feminism has of course contributed to this dialectic"


Comment by Jackaranda Rainbow on Sunday

It does not matter, Eric, when this or that concept first originated. You seem to speak as if you have no unconscious, as if you imagine you are conscious of everything that is driving your behaviour. Are you?

Its not the pain you suffer consciously that drives your behaviour, its the hurt that you did not admit to as a child because it was too much, you had to separate it to survive. Some of your feelings arising in abuse at the time will have therefore been driven so deep that you cannot bear to be consciously aware of it. So the mind puts it to one side and 'forget' its there. 

To make statements like "God is the self" may be fine if there is something you have objectively experienced of "God" that I have not, but there is not, is there? That it is another escape plan.

Are you quoting the BG as an authoritative source? If so, I have to laugh. I mean, why not quote the book of revelations? The BG is BS from cover to cover, it gives nothing to humanity but more religious ideation. 

I do not agree with you that you have dealt with or 'processed' your abuse experiences. You can't process feelings, you can either repress them or feel them. That's it. No third way. What is pathology but repressed feelings driving behaviour unconsciously?

What you are doing is very dangerous for your health. You are holding a range of very deep and strong feelings which you deny by religious ideation. I'm trying to tell you something that is so painfully obvious, Eric, that for me to witness you pretending you have 'processed' it is quite a sad experience for me. For you to then go on with your hurt feelings (which you have packaged as "emotional wounds" ) and drive yourself ever deeper into religious ideas about "spirituality" and "soul" with your raw feelings still hurting you seems to me the absolute definition of madness. 

I take a much humbler path to spirit that allows me to develop, through feeling and acknowledging as past events arise from burried memories in me, into a man who knows himself, who knows the truth. The way up is much clearer and I don't have to bullshit people with religious ideas like you do. 

Comment by Eric Allen Bell on September 15, 2014 at 10:34pm

Jack - To address your first point, this notion of a wounded and neglected inner child, as I recall, became very popular in the 90s.  It seemed everyone I knew was doing "inner child work" and sort of looking down their nose and those who did not "do the work".  Although I would not dismiss entirely that there is something there - certainly Robert Bly's book "Iron John" presented a lot of insight on this - my sense is that to fixate on this as being central to who a person is, becomes dogmatic.  Our pathology is part of who we are, but our spirituality or soul or whatever name you want to give it - is also part of who we are.  Integration, to me, seems like a prerequisite for spiritual health.  

I am not very familiar with John Ortberg. The idea that "God is closer to you than yourself" was first presented to me about 15 years ago during a talk given about the poetry of Rumi.  The phrase spoke to me - that the illusion of self was not as real as the reality of Self.  Here I am using the word "Self" in the way I feel the Bhagavad Gita refers to it.  This is a story of the little self meeting the big Self.  Another way of saying that is the character in the story meets the Author.  "God" is the "Self".  The brain-body organism, with a name and a personal history, is part of who we are in the world.  I see no reason to deny this or turn my back on this. Spirituality is not a clever technique to escape this. We are who we are in the world.  But in the big picture, the "Self" is much more vast.  So the focus for me then becomes "Self Realization".  I don't feel this happens through religious escapism or fantasy.  Rather one must go inward, but one must also accept things as they are - including emotional wounds.  Does that make sense?

Comment by Jackaranda Rainbow on September 15, 2014 at 4:25am

The phrase “inner victim” is yours, not mine. There is certainly a little boy inside you who is asking for your attention, that is blindingly obvious. To avoid his pleas you have developed an ideology of religious fantasy, which you repeat as a kind of emotionally soothing balm. But, you are trying to convince me that responding to your own emotional pain would be “counter productive.” Really?


 I have another 2 questions for you:  Having established that your repeated statement “God is closer than you think.” was originated by emotionally dissociative Christian fantasist, John Ortberg, can you say how you came to use those exact words? What is the difference if any in the way you use those exact words and the way in which John Ortberg uses them?


Comment by Eric Allen Bell on September 12, 2014 at 1:13am

My sense is that one of the many bad things to come out of the hippy dippy New Age movement is a self righteousness.  We are told not to have an ego, that masculinity is bad and that the world's problems are mostly because of men. We are told that conflict is bad, that debate is bad, that standing one's ground is just being rigid.  New Age culture is designed as yet another escape, in an uncertain world where people seek escape and comfort.  But the fact is that we are also human beings living in material space.  We are competitive.  We employ reason because reason has served us well.  In light of that, it's hard to throw away reason or critical thinking or even the ego.  In fact, it's impossible to throw away the ego.  I do not mind competition or arguing or ego, but I do mind being captured by these things.  And there is a difference.  In the "Post New Age" perhaps we learn to forgive ourselves for being human ;)

Comment by Elia A. Sinaiko, PhD on September 11, 2014 at 6:13am

Its often been a dilemma for me when I try to come to mutual understanding through conflict.  I hope over the years that I have learned to avoid seizing on words that sound like an attack, preferring instead to hear the shared struggle.  But this does not always work out well, and I have to cut off the exchange or show anger which can at times have the effect of "breaking through".  Sometimes when the alternatives seem to be certainty or confusion, winning or losing, a trap of opposites, you know that yin-yang stuff, silence and listening is a good third option.  But not always.  I don't think there are rules that we can rely on.

In a like sense, arguing for one rule or another, like "embracing one's inner victim" or the necessity of forgiveness, can be counter-productive.  We become like ideologues, rigid, stuck in our arguments, sounding arrogant in the extreme.  So I avoid words like "always", but not always :-)  I hear Eric's objections to "one note" in this context.  On the other hand the tone of this ongoing exchange appears to me to be becoming more thoughtful, fluid, considerate of each other.  If nothing else, we are persistent, which I do think is a good thing.  Maybe something can come out of it.

Who ever said this would be easy? :-))

Comment by Eric Allen Bell on September 10, 2014 at 10:34pm

Jack - I think Elia brings up some very valid observations and questions for you. If you will address those, sincerely, I will be willing to continue this dialogue and see where it takes us.  But if you're just here to pound home your doctrine of embracing one's inner victim, as a prerequisite to any spiritual inquiry, then I don't feel that is a conversation worth keeping alive. It's one note, redundant and strikes me as counter intuitive to pursue.  

Comment by Elia A. Sinaiko, PhD on September 10, 2014 at 6:34am


I might be misunderstanding your intentions because of the tone of your posts.  But you do sound as if you are cross examining Eric, as if you are the authority, the teacher, and he the student.  Is this what you want?  On the other hand, I hear a real effort at communicating in these exchanges.

I am also puzzled by "what have you actually done in your thoughts".  What do you mean by this?



Comment by Jackaranda Rainbow on September 10, 2014 at 5:46am

hello Eric,

OK, you forgave your father/mother/teachers. If you had not forgiven them I assume you would simply state that, rather than trying to deflect my enquiry.The issue for you is not what Jack makes of Forgiveness, but  what you mean by that word in terms of how your abuse has affected you and how you have responded to it.  What have you actually done in your thoughts by "forgiving" your abusers? 


Eric Allen Bell


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