Ego death  

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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.
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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.

Ego death is an experience that reveals the illusory aspect of the ego, sometimes undergone by mystics, shamans, monks, psychologists, and others interested in exploring the depths of the mind.

The practice of ego death as a deliberately sought "mystical experience" in some ways is said to overlap with, but is nevertheless distinct from, traditional teachings concerning enlightenment/"Nirvana" (in Buddhism) or "Moksha" (in Hinduism and Jainism), which might perhaps be better understood as transcendence of the notion that one even has any actual, non-illusory "ego" with which to experience "death" in the first place.

Methods of inducing the experience

Many methods, practices, or experiences may induce this state, including prayer, sleep deprivation, fasting, meditation practice, ingestion of psychedelic drugs or through the use of an isolation tank. It is suggested that individuals experiencing depersonalization may also claim to have had an ego death, although it may be misconstrued for deeper psychological issues.

An ego death is said to be characterized as the perceived loss of boundaries between self and environment, a sense of the loss of "control", the loss of the accustomed feeling of existing as a "personal agent", and loose "cognitive-association binding". This "perceived loss of boundaries between self and environment" is said to be experienced through a sensation that one is the whole universe (and therefore there is no need to differentiate the "I" from the "universe") or by simply acknowledging the "I" does not exist.

Modern claims of ego death

Some famous examples of people claiming to have had the experience are, Ramana Maharshi and U. G. Krishnamurti. More recently Eckhart Tolle has claimed that he underwent the experience after having suffered from long periods of suicidal depression. He says he woke up in the middle of that night and thought,

I couldn’t live with myself any longer. And in this a question arose without an answer: who is the ‘I’ that cannot live with the self? What is the self? I felt drawn into a void. I didn’t know at the time that what really happened was the mind-made self, with its heaviness, its problems, that lives between the unsatisfying past and the fearful future, collapsed. It dissolved.

Tolle recalls going out for a walk in London the next morning, and finding that “everything was miraculous, deeply peaceful. Even the traffic."

Many users of psychedelics like psilocybin, LSD and DMT report experiences of Ego death along with other mystical experiences common with psychedelic substances. This becomes apparent on study of psychedelic reports where themes relating to dying and mortality, transcendence, and expansion of consciousness are commonly observed.

See also

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Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "Ego death" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on original research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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