"The Ego Does Want to Kill You"
by Greg Mackie
A couple of newsletters ago (
A Better Way
#41), I shared a remarkable spiritual experience of mine, an experience of universal love. Recently, I had another remarkable experience, this oneof the opposite end of the spectrum—what could be called an experience of universal hate. Itwas a terrifying encounter with the ego unmasked, the false self in me that is utterly malevolentand quite literally wants to kill me.I would like to share this experience in the hope that, like the first one, it may be helpful toothers on the path. It was certainly helpful to me. It brought with it some powerful lessons, whichI will share below. Terrifying though it was, I am very grateful for this experience. It felt like asignificant milestone in my journey with the Course.
The prelude: whispers of the murderer within
It all started in late May. For a couple of days, I had been experiencing vague feelings of depression and self-loathing. I'm fairly certain the trigger was a conversation I had with a friendof mine on May 24, which brought up a lot of anger and defensiveness in me. Though theconversation was outwardly amicable and the disagreements that came up in it totally resolved,my inward anger and defensiveness made me aware of just how much I attack and condemnothers in my mind. I saw myself as an attacker, and that made me feel grimy and loathsome. Idid Course practices to address these feelings and the thoughts behind them, and this actuallyhelped quite a bit. But my negative feelings did not dissipate entirely.It's not that I was walking around in abject, full-blown self-hatred. In fact, as I look over mypractice notes for those days, I see that my overall mood was positive. I was definitelyconsciously aware of my depression and self-loathing, but I had no idea of the extent of thosefeelings. It was as if something dark lurked just below my awareness; there was a sharkswimming in the depths of my mind, and all I was seeing was the dorsal fin breaking thesurface. I had a dim sense of a vicious thought in me, a kind of malevolent force that truly hatedme and literally wanted to kill me. But at the time, it wasn't very strong.
The experience: a terrifying encounter with the murderer within
That dim sense remained with me as I went to bed on May 26. I don't remember how muchsleep I got, but I'll never forget that at about three o'clock in the morning, the awareness of thismalevolent force hit me like a ton of bricks. There wasn't anything in particular that brought it on;it just happened. There's really no way to adequately describe it. There was just this
in me that felt like pure evil, something that was bent on destroying me. It literally wanted to stopmy heart. It wanted to take control of my hands and wrap them around my throat. It was a realforce—real in my experience, anyway—that gripped me with incredible intensity.Before anyone gets too worried about my mental health here, let me assure you that I wasnever truly suicidal. I'm normally an upbeat, emotionally stable person who is not prone todramatic mood swings. The "normal" part of my mind could look upon this murderous impulsefrom "outside" of it, as it were; the impulse did not take over my entire mind. On the contrary, itfelt almost as if it were independent of my mind. I think I now understand something of whatpeople experience in cases of apparent demon possession. I didn't think I was really beingtaken over by a demon—as a Course student, I immediately identified this apparently demonicforce as a product of my own mind, my ego unmasked. But it
like something from outside mymind, and it was truly terrifying.I had to do something to assuage my terror. So, I did various Course practices and called uponGod, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit for help. I don't remember every single practice I did, but Idefinitely remember saying, "Help me, Father," "Steady my feet, my Father" (based on W-pI.rV.In.2:1), "Help me, Holy Spirit," "Help me, Jesus," "There is nothing to fear" (W-