Transcendence. Enlightenment. Bodhi. Whatever you call it, the experience is ego death, and it's one of the most profound occurrences you could ever hope to live through. But it can also be a little scary (especially if you aren't properly prepared).
Excited to learn more? Perfect! We're covering everything you need to know about ego death here.
Understanding The Ego to Understand Its Death
The ego is your sense of self that develops early on in life and relates to your feelings about your abilities and importance.
Annette Nuñez, Ph.D., LMFT, a psychotherapist, puts it very simply — the ego is who you are as a person, including your gender identity, morals, beliefs, and everything else.
It's essentially the image you have of yourself, which ultimately affects your behavior around others and your perception of the world around you.
What Does Ego Death Mean?
The word "death" tends to elicit feelings of dread, darkness, and finality. But we're sure you'll be pleased to know that isn't the case here.
Ego death is the most popular phrase for this truly mind-bending experience. However, your ego can't actually die. Instead, your ego is made conscious, so you aren't viewing the world through that lens anymore.
People who have achieved ego death say it has to be felt to be believed. But, in simple terms, it's a temporary experience that allows you to transcend your ego (i.e., your self or personal identity).
Due to the sheer power of the temporary experience, ego death has the power to totally transform your life in unexpected ways. But to benefit from the state, experienced psychonauts say you need to approach with courage and surrender to every feeling, even the scary ones.
The 7 Stages of Ego Death
If you aren't significantly prepared for ego death, the experience can throw you through a loop. But by understanding the stages, you stand the best chance of achieving self-realization, oneness, or spiritual enlightenment at the end of it.
While ego death isn't formulaic, anecdotes suggest that you can expect it to follow this seven-stage pattern:
Stage 1: The Spiritual Awakening
The first stage is the initial spark or "wake-up call" to life and the power your ego has over you.
Some reports state you'll start searching for more meaning and depth. You could question your purpose, the meaning of life, or what occurs following death.
Stage 2: The Dark Night of the Soul
Stages one and two are powerfully interconnected — one cannot exist without the other.
As you navigate your triggered understanding, you start realizing that everything isn't as you've been taught before. Experienced ego death seekers say you become overly conscious of your separation from yourself, others, and higher powers.
The Dark Night of the Soul is a period of utter loneliness and isolation. It's a complete lack of identity that tends to "pop" the ego bubble.
Stage 3: The Spiritual Seeker
Once the ego bubble bursts, you'll arrive at the field of spirituality. You'll begin experimenting with various spiritual practices to alleviate your life's suffering.
Often, people become obsessed with ending the suffering they've carried around, trying everything from zen to yoga to astrology to energy healing and beyond.
Stage 4: Satori
Satori, or momentary enlightenment, is a term from Buddhism that refers to a singular glimpse into your consciousness. At this point, your ego dissipates entirely.
According to sources, this experience can be scary for some psychonauts. Thus, their spiritual growth stops here. But for the rest, it's a deeply life-changing epiphany that allows their growth to continue.
Stage 5: The Elder Soul
Eventually, you'll develop spiritual discernment — i.e., understanding practices that keep you trapped in the fear cycle and learning those that can help you break free. It's about soulful maturity and developing patience and focus.
Of course, it's a highly personal experience. So, your Elder Soul stage may look very different from somebody else's, and that's fine!
Stage 6: Dissolution and Deconstruction
Stage 6 is the start of surrender.
You aren't just identifying your limiting or destructive beliefs or behaviors; you're letting them go. Humility, non-attachment, discipline, courage, and grace play a massive role here.
Stage 7: The End of the Search
Finally, you arrive.
You realize everything that you are and everything that you need is now. You no longer search to become, to lose, to find, to accomplish something. You experience interconnectedness and oneness.
True, the ego isn't technically dead. However, it's no longer your entire being. Instead, it's simply a tool.
The Pros and Cons of Ego Death
By now, you're in one of two camps — super excited to experience ego death or terrified of it.
So, consider the pros and cons:
- Allows you to let go of expectations
- Feels like waking up
- Achieves inner peace and freedom
- Surrendering to the experience gives you the best chance of success
- Can be incredibly scary, especially during stage two
- Intense loneliness can be too much for some people (even though it's a temporary feeling)
The Ego Death: Should You Experience It?
There's no right or wrong answer to whether you "should" experience ego death. It's entirely up to you. After all, it's a very personal journey.
Many people decide to achieve transcendence through psychedelics like magic mushrooms. So, if you are looking to take a trip into the ego-death sphere, only do it with the help of appropriately sourced consumables for minimal toxicity risk.