More thoughts on ego

When I’m doing something that goes well, I think about how I’m seeing God in that too. He is the Beauty of all beautiful things; He is life itself. Ego may always be there, but it, too, is part of this beautiful drama. Even in the fact of ego, there is something divine.

So I do not seek to be rid of my ego. Rather, I desire for every part of me to serve God – including my ego. Otherwise, I am setting up a battle within myself again, and hell comes back into being.

Take for example the Sufi concept of nafs. The nafs is our individuality, our unique experience of existence. It is also a fiction, an illusion, giving us the idea that we’re somehow separate from God. As we progress through the Valleys, we ultimately reach the Valley of Nothingness, when the nafs becomes as nothing before the True Reality.

However, the nafs is never “discarded”. All the stages of the soul are in fact stages of the nafs! The highest degree, “the perfect soul” is actually “an-nafsu’l-kaamila”: the perfect nafs. That is, we advance by bringing the nafs into line with God’s will, rather than by destroying it.

Just as we need a mirror to reflect the light of the sun, we need the nafs to express our servitude and humility – since it is the nafs, and not God, who evinces such humility.

Thus I want my nafs, I value my nafs, for the expressions of love it can make toward my Creator. It is only by falling in love with my own nafs that I really go wrong. The nafs itself is just a tool of our existence; it deserves neither love nor hate.

This poem sums up what I mean:


It’s not that the pen disappears, but that it gets put to its proper use. Perhaps you mean “stepping out of the way” by the pen’s not interfering with its own use. But there is no need for inner conflict, shunning our creation, or despising anything about ourselves.

All these dichotomies, these fingers pointing at “this” and “that”, “God” and “self” – are the very reality of “self” whose tyranny we seek to escape.