Ego-Death: Subtracting the Self from the Equation?

“ In the beast, suffering is self-confined; in man, it knocks holes into a fear of the world and a despair of life.” —Peter Wessel Zapffe

Since the conclusion of pessimism is that consciousness is the culprit of all our woes, I’ve often wondered why we don’t spend all our efforts on eliding it. Since all the major religions on the planet were systems of ego-death ritual and hygiene, and obviously they only worked for a very few isn’t it time to provide a more scientific path to subtraction of self? Isn’t this really what Badiou is getting at after all? Even Zizek would subtract nothing from nothing getting less than nothing… are we not after all just a bunch of othings? Even all these speculative realists have sought ways out of this quandary of self-referential insanity, and have found none… so maybe philosophy is at a dead end and the sciences should just put an end to this thing, this in plain site nothing we term consciousness? What would it be like to have a planetary melt-down of consciousness? Eliminating the planetary #1 criminal from the fabric of existence? Instead we just continue to wonder what consciousness is rather than eliminating it altogether… hell we even want our advance AI robots to be conscious and self-aware as we are… why impose consciousness on a machine when we know it is at the core of our human misery? Tell me…. ? Would you knowingly bring into existence the very thing that produces misery in our own lives and give it to somethin not human as if it were a gift rather than a costly mistake?

In Thomas Ligotti’s survey of pessimism The Conspiracy against the Human Race he discovered what he termed “enlightenment by accident”: people like U.G. Krishnamurti and others who through no advanced choice or mechanism were suddenly thrown into an accidental trauma which broke the beasts back, ended their plight of consciousness:

“Perhaps the capital instance of enlightenment by accident is that of U. G. Krishnamurti. Although U. G. gave no credence to any doctrine of awakening, he claimed to have experienced “clinical death” at the age of forty-nine, after which he returned to life as the kind of being glorified in the literature of enlightenment. Through his clinical death and its aftermath, which he called a “calamity” due to the pain and confusion he felt during this process, U. G. was transformed.

For decades prior to his calamity, U. G. was an earnest seeker who sought enlightenment by effort rather than by accident. But his efforts got him nowhere, and he ended up financially drained. By chance he met a woman who was willing to support him, and for years he was something of a layabout. It was while living with this woman that his calamity struck. Upon recovering from his calamity, he had what he once looked for and in disgust had given up trying to find. U. G. was no longer the person he once was, for now he was someone whose ego had been erased. In this state, he had all the self-awareness of a tree frog. To his good fortune, he had no problem with his new way of functioning. He did not need to accept it, since by his report he had lost all sense of having an ego that needed to accept or reject anything. How could someone who had ceased to participate in the commerce of selves, who had inadvertently forfeited his personhood, believe or not believe in anything so outlandish as enlightenment … or any other spiritual vendibles, none of which are evident in the least and all of which are as outmoded as the gods of antiquity or tribal deities with names that sound comical to believers in “real” religions?”1

Obviously what this points to is a very real physical rather than spiritual brain function that was eliminated by trauma which produced this ego-death of which he speaks. If this is true then we have our answer in plain site: and, yet, we do not know where in the brain this very material process of ego-formation and its continuance resides; so isn’t it opportune that we should investigate this as the number one priority of our time? When we look around us and see so many narcissists and ego-maniacal psychopaths on this planet in politics imposing their idiocy upon the majority then why do we put up with such things when we have it in our power to eliminate it, wipe it off the planet? Shouldn’t the elimination and ego-death of consciousness become the number one priority on our planet?


  1. Ligotti, Thomas. The Conspiracy against the Human Race: A Contrivance of Horror (pp. 135-136). Hippocampus Press. Kindle Edition.

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