Tag Archives: Alfred Pulyan

Transcendence and Ego1-Ego2

Transcendence of thought is not transcendence of self. Shifting the focus of attention away from thought and onto breath or body is a useful prelude to a meditation of self-inquiry, but as an entire meditative technique it is an exercise in self-forgetfulness. It may lead to a wonderful experience but the mind is simply resting on the I-thought, and that I-self is having a very pleasant experience while remaining safely hidden behind the cloak of mental quietude and physical ease. The notion of “coming into the body” is a form of engaging in what Alfred Pulyan describes as Ego1-Ego2.* The experience generated from this meditative technique is not the absolute realization that Rose, Nisargadatta, Maharshi, and others speak about. There is always a desire and a need for experiences to be extended in duration and intensity in order to satisfy the ego’s need for affirmation, progress, and the nagging, deep sense of lacking a final answer to the question of ultimate self-definition.

*Pulyan wrote about the Ego dichotomizing itself in order to set up a dynamic of protecting and reinforcing a “boss” ego with the need created by having a subservient ego hard at supposed spiritual work of creating experiences and thoughts that affirmed ego-self.
~ Bob Cergol, 2014 Labor Day TAT presentation
* Alfred Pulyan, a mid-1900’s Zen Master who engaged with students through the mail, in one such letter wrote about the Ego dichotomizing itself in order to set up a dynamic of protecting and reinforcing a “boss” ego … by having a subservient ego hard at supposed spiritual work of creating experiences and thoughts that affirmed ego-self. ~ Bob Cergol

Alfred Pulyan, Ego1-Ego2 Incursus
(Devices to preserve Egocentricity)

We do not pull flowers up to see how they are growing, but Ego (Self!) cannot endure being out of the driver’s seat and so even in the “work” he tries to be both objective & subjective. To be specific, Ego1 wants to watch the progress of the work with an occasional criticism or pat on the back for the Master.

“How shall we handle Ego2?” is asked by Ego1. Or – “I don’t think I (who is “I”? – why Ego1) would have handled me (Ego2!!) quite that way.” Or: “Fine,” says Ego1, “that’s showing him (Ego2).”

This schizoidal device preserves Ego at the expense of a fictitious Ego2!! You have already started this process.

Sometimes Ego1 will say he is “seeking” & does not DESIRE TO FIND. What is this? A pleasure merely in the action of the reason? Apparently. In any case, Ego2 is not even necessary here. Ego is asserting the utmost “doubt even of doubt” & refusal to go even as far as the word “the” without definition. It is a sound & invulnerable position. So is advanced psychosis, but that seems more restful – at times! Such a position (like solipsism) is fine when one is healthy, happy, young & immortal. It gets an awful kick later.

Ego1, for all that, sometimes feels that his constant observation of Ego2 (“self-consciousness”) is unsatisfactory. He may feel that his division is a faked device. In love, he may for a time forget himself (which means – become spontaneous) & the experience is delightful, unaccustomed & turns out often to be most unwise. It occurs often when young & when judgment would be desirable (for a change!), especially if the girl is not so spontaneous! If they both are, it is wonderful, but again the claims of the everyday come in, & the magic fades away. Everything in Japan used to be a “way.” There was a “way” of sword-play, of wrestling, of flower arrangement, of drinking tea, of commerce even, of drawing & painting – and the characteristic of each was spontaneity. Even archery (incredible results even in semi-darkness, splitting one arrow with another) – & such spontaneity daunts us. We are system-minded. Zen may seem to be a “system” of mass-production, but the essence of the work is individual. I have no “system” whatever for the same reason – no two people are alike. Certainly egocentricity is always the devil to be conquered, but from that central point he (ego or self) diverges in innumerable ways & uses every imaginable device, some very snide, others really subtle. He may know it too – and still throw up a smoke-screen! He resists the means to release – to the point of murder even (fortunately, since he is free to withdraw at any time, he usually withdraws under a confusion of self-justification. But if he were trapped – as I was – oh boy!!! In the Reichian technique for example the room is often a shambles).

So we DO “protect” something. And how! What? Ego? Oh no – while we live we are of course “we” & always that remains – but the “boss conception,” the “ultimate decider,” the “second line of defense,” these he INSISTS on at all costs. So Jung & others know the truth but sit in the audience (behind their desk for example) and are never part of the play. It is ludicrous to think I could help Jung – he is heavily armed. I could get ONE letter from almost everybody by promising “a new technique” but to get involved in it. Oh dear no! Most certainly not! Utterly fantastic! – who knows what –    Thus Jesus was correct. It is the treasure of the humble & for this goodly pearl a merchant sold all he had – and bought it. I can persuade almost anybody to say “O.K. Go ahead! What do I have to lose?” It is a Pyrrhic victory, it is unreal. In that way one sells toothpaste. They must come to me and really want it. Since they can easily push God away, how can I succeed where God does not? This is not a mystery I can solve. But the truly accessible, as Jesus said, are FEW. Up to you –    And so many words!
~ Correspondence with Richard Rose

material taken from July 2016 TAT Forum, http://tatfoundation.org/forum2016-07.htm#4 –Thanks to Art Ticknor, Editor

Double Head-Head


I once had a dream of having another head on top of the original, like an appendage emanating from the present noggin. In the dream I was told that I was using spiritual work to build this second head, the ‘double head-head’. Instead of using self-observation to see my present personality pattern, the pattern of experience built up through my present life forming what I called my ‘self’, I was engaging in a strange fantasy. I was manufacturing a second head, which I then ‘worked on’, rather than observing the original. This kept me safe. I didn’t have to actually face anything unpleasant about myself, for everything in this second head was created with the express purpose of keeping the ego intact and unassailed. This new head was all I really knew, it was ‘me’.

I could keep being ‘myself’ while thinking I was engaged in serious spiritual work. I could ‘see’ things about myself freely, for they would be recommended and okayed by the ego. The realization struck me that I had been doing this for decades, living in a false self-created ‘self’ that kept me a stranger to the relatively real me. I was a mystery to me, but not, apparently, to everyone.

After the shock of the dream, I began to look more closely at myself, hoping to catch glimpses of the double head-head, and how it worked. Listening to others when they offered advice or criticism began to hold value too. Group work suddenly held a new purpose. How did this work? Could I see it in others as well? How could one be so naïve?

Later, I came to understand what Alfred Pulyan had called the Ego1-Ego2 game, the ego splitting itself in two, and calling the separated part ‘ego’, thus keeping itself safe from scrutiny. And also Carl Jung’s work on the ‘shadow’, that hitherto mysterious dark side of which I was sure I was immune.

Working in an illusion serves the ego’s prime directive: survival. It feels threatened with annihilation when things such as self-observation and looking at one self directly are entertained. In order to survive, it creates an ‘ego2’, a second head, on top of itself.

This process has been going on all of our life. Many of our phobias, inferiorities, and grandiose imaginings about ourselves are only in this second head. Once we cut it off through self-inquiry, a form of productive thinking, we are free, free to begin the real work of facing the original head.

To give an example, we may feel we have something wrong with us, stemming from the negative criticism of a parent figure when we were too small to understand or protect ourselves. This may have given us a feeling of inferiority, for God as the parent has told us we are lacking. Later in life this feeling of something being wrong is what is answered to. We may be engaged in spiritual work to compensate for this: to fix our inferiority complex. In actuality, we are working on a fantasy, an incorrect idea of ourselves injected into us from outside. We may never have even begun to act on our innate positive potentials due to being sidetracked: trying to fix a false problem. Have we ever tried to find what we are, inside, without relying on what we have been told? Has this outside information kept us down, or inflated us with a grandiose expectation of things?

Living in our imagination will not set us free, for what we seek freedom from is our own false conception of ourselves. Take courage and patience, learn to look for the facts of your life, not the fantasy of the double head-head.

Bob Fergeson

Here’s the  Double Head-Head video: