The Ego as an Imaginary Function

“If the ego is an imaginary function, it is not to be confused with the subject.” – Jacques Lacan (Seminar 1)

Is the ego an imaginary function? If so, it is no more real than a character in a story. If so, then the ego is an imaginary identity, lying outside of our true subjectivity, transcending our true subjectivity.

If we look at this idea from the Hindu perspective we might say that the ego is trapped in Samsara, and that our true subjectivity lies beyond the illusions of Samsara– extending into the eternal.

At the same time and on another level, the ego is a precious gift. Only with this body, and only with this body ego, can we turn our gaze away from the all the fictional dramas in which we find ourselves, and discover the eternal nature of the Self.


2 thoughts on “The Ego as an Imaginary Function

  1. I’ve been thinking of ego as a fictional character. Granted, it’s not real, as there’s no subject or owner of life behind experience, which is its assumption and foundation… but! as a real work of fiction – holy s***!! Look at this thing, it’s beautiful. It’s depth and scope in our lives is astounding.

    Anyway, being a fiction, I started seeing it as a performance – the character alone is on stage and her audience is consciousness, who has for many years been captivated by this show, on the edge of her seat (I’m enjoying personifying consciousness as a she), hoping for the character, fearing for it, highly invested in its potential to finally “make it” or “get” that abstract “it” that will complete it – but when consciousness notices the structure of the ego, prior to the compelling content, its interest loosens – the absurdity of the seeking, the getting, its manipulating conceptual self-images, all designed to temporarily deny or negate all the feelings and fears of inadequacy – it’s cyclical, predictable, and baffling to witness the folly, the madness of this fictional character. So consciousness, at last, begins losing interest the fiction. The catch-22 is that as consciousness loses interest, we end up still hooked on the fictional character who now appears to have “lost interest in the absurdity and superficiality of the fiction.” Is this progress? Not really – only the time-bound fiction can convince itself that there’s progress, and this again is its manipulating circumstances conceptually (as it doesn’t interact with reality – ever…) to avoid, deny, negate the fundamental fear that “I am not enough.”

    When it’s only the fiction running from the fiction to someplace better, when all we have this, the present, the cosmic now, unity, whatever… well, I like this because the ego is a cool thing, it’s really wow. Yawn. Incoherent thoughts overpowering fingers..

  2. In a sense the ego is a fiction, in that the ego is really the self with only budding knowledge of its true nature. It is like the prodigal that has forgotten (or never has really known) it true heredity. As we free ourselves from much of the drudgery of survival brought on by our being largely reared in a culture shaped under pre-technological conditions, more and more of us will have the opportunity to productively evalutate the existential reality of self and the ego’s true relation to that self. As we become civilized we will become enlightened. 🙂

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