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Egos, Group and Individual; Brainstorm

To: soc.religion.eastern
From: tyagi nagasiva (
Subj: Egos, Group and Individual; Brainstorm (
Date: 49930909

My king, raj, asks "Could a religion also have an ego?".

I've been considering this for several months now and think that the
individual ego may get a bad reputation from groups and traditions
which are in competition with it for the attention of the reader/listener.

It seems to me that ego in its varying forms is sometimes by its very
nature attention-grabbing and exclusive in its desire to be seen and
heard.  Not only this, but it isn't just individual ego which we are
dealing with when we engage society.  We also come upon something
which I'd call 'group ego' and 'tradition ego'.

Personally I don't think that any of these is completely 'bad' or
even 'unproductive'.  The ego seems to be a very valuable means of
supporting continued survival, especially when there is a competition
among egos of various sorts.

However, more than anything else have I heard and read about the 'evil'
of the individual ego.  My feeling about this is that groups of people
(schools, trads, etc.) have been very influential and seen it was to
their benefit to 'demonize' the individual ego for their benefits.
Note that I am not saying there was some grand scheme to disempower
the individual, just that doing so serves the ego of the group, and
this is seen as a 'good thing' by very many writers.

My point in writing this article, though, is to point out that group
ego is *not* superior to individual ego.  Far from it, sometimes it can
be very dangerous (such as when we use the identification with the group
to support our harm of individuals).

This is why raj's question inspires me.  I'd like to know more about
what ego is, what it does, and how group ego functions.  Some random
ideas follow:

It seems that group ego often revolves around the name of the group,
or the group's founding member.  Here I'm thinking about things as
diverse as 'cults' and whole traditions such as 'Saivites'.

There seems to be a direct resemblance between individual and group
ego, in that it grows and occludes the ego of others around it, if

Ego seems to be a kind of mask which holds together diverse elements
of an individual or group psyche.

It's almost like a kind of 'false unity', where that which feels
separate (based on differing perceptions, conceptions and experience)
works on or at that which it sees around it.  This gives it a kind of
'face' (persona), a gate or nexus that the surrounding culture sees.

Group ego seems to absorb the individual ego unless it finds one which 
serves the group in some very strong way, and then it blows this one 
into a grand myth (such as Buddha, Christ, Padma-Sambhava, etc.) and 
uses this for its purposes.

There are helpful and harmful ways that ego is used.  Sometimes it is
bombastic and destructive (especially when it feels threatened).  Sometimes
it is supportive and caring (especially when it thinks that it is not the

Group ego seems less visible to the public eye at present.  I get the
feeling that we just aren't made aware of it in our day-to-day lives,
and this may be as a result of people simply not having the idea that
such a thing exists, applying what has traditionally been considered
an 'individual thing' to groups.

Neither seems like something we must eliminate.  I think, as I mentioned
above, that both can be used for helpful ends.  It seems more important
to recognize and watch the ego (individual AND group) to be sure that
we don't use it to do something which we don't intend.

Note that we do similar things with individual egos as we do with group
ego.  We give somebody a 'title' or 'grand name'.  I call raj 'my king'.
He calls me 'kalinanda'.  These reflect how we feel about the other
person.  They expand upon who they are to us.  When others come upon
this they may infer thing which are not necessarily true (such as that
I worship raj, or that raj is my chela :>).  All sorts of misinterpretations
and new concepts may arise around a person (or group), and this may allow
them to build new ego-structures and learn about themselves (as a group
or individual).

Ok, brainstorm off.
Comments?  I really would like to hear a variety of opinion on this.
Throw off your knowledge and imagine what this concept (of group ego)
might lead us to understand, work toward, etc.  Thanks.

Tyagi Nagasiva

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